This is probably one of the most popular tourist in Kyoto. You can get amazing photos of the thousands of scarlet-coloured torii (shrine gates) that lead 2.5 miles up a mountain to the main Inari shrine. It is quite a hike. I think we spent more than an hour to get to the top.
Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, is a 400-year-old market that spans five blocks of over 100 shops and restaurants. It’s a treasure trove of rare delicacies and unusual foods. This place is also great to visit when it is raining. We bought some nice souvenirs in the market:
- Traditional Japanese Knives – Aritsugu. They are one of the oldest knifemakers in Japan. It’s a bit pricey but it comes highly recommended, as it is a trusted brand of professionals as well. Beware they don’t accept credit card.
- Green tea leaves
- Japanese chopsticks – Lots of options and you can even engraved your name on the chosen shopstick!
Gion (Geisha District)
Gion is one of Japan’s few remaining geisha districts. Windy streets lined with old wooden buildings bring Old Kyoto to mind and are full of traditional teahouses and exclusive restaurants. We walked around the area and stumbled upon the Shirakawa Area, which runs along the Shirakawa Canal near Gion and is full of local restaurants and bars. Unfortunately we didn’t try any of the local restaurants as it is very expensive.
Tenryu-ji, one of Kyoto’s important cultural properties, is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is very beautiful and give out a very calming feeling. As we were there just at the start of the autumn, the foliage has just started. I would highly recommend to visit this place in the middle of the season.
We also saw all kind of daruma drawings in various rooms around the temple. Some are quite fierce looking.
I love this place. To avoid the crowd we decided to head there early after sunrise and it was a good decision. There was no one there and we had the place all to ourselves. It was a little tricky finding the entrance to the path but we managed after doing a bit of upfront research.
Did you know that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth?
Another highlight in Kyoto was dressing up in kimono and walking around Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka street. We found a rental place (Okamoto) that specialises in kimono rental. They have lots of choices and rental plan to suite your budget. In addition to the kimono, I choose to have a matching bag and hair accessories as well.
You get to choose the different layers of cloth to go with the kimono, so be prepared to colour match! Don’t worry if you can’t decide. There is help at hand. Once all is choose, I was taken into a room to change and there’s a few Japanese ladies that help put the kimono together. To ensure everything hangs together, they have to wrap the cloth super tight! Once that’s done, then it’s on to another room to get the hair done. The whole affair took about 45 mins. Poor Dav had to wait outside.
Walking around Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka Streets was quite tough. Firstly it’s on top of a hill, so there’s lots of steps and slopes. Of course with the tight kimono, I can hardly walk like normal, especially with the Japanese shoe.
Anyway, I found the place to be an amazing spot to take pictures with my kimono. It is one of the city’s best preserved historic districts. Lined with beautifully restored traditional shophouses and blissfully free of the overhead power lines that mar the rest of Kyoto, with pedestrian-only lanes you truly feel like you’re back in ancient Japan.
By the time we visited the palace, I think we had seen a lot of traditional Japanese building so the palace didn’t make us feel excited. But the garden was beautiful. We had to book the free tour way in advance (can’t visit without a booking) and the group was quite huge, therefore there were certain parts which we can’t hear the tour guide properly.
Next: Osaka & Hiroshima