This Kyoto post will be the last of my Japan chronicles. I will not be including our travel adventures in Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka. I feel that I’m starting to overkill my Japan blog entries already so I’ll write about another country next post, promise.
But I cannot NOT (yay double negative) include Kyoto because there are just so many cool things going on in that place. Actually, I had this image of Kyoto being all historic and just shrines and temples everywhere, so I was surprised that it’s actually a big city and quite cosmopolitan at that. It’s a contradiction of both the old and modern blending together seamlessly. In other words, Kyoto is DOPE.
Since there are so many things to do/see, you really need to plan ahead especially if you don’t have a lot of time. Again, a little research and some extensive interrogation (annoying questions you ask locals) will help you a lot. A few things you need to remember before you go temple/shrine hopping.
- The more popular the temple/shrine, the bigger the crowd (obviously) so expect long queues at the entrance and expect to compete photo op space with other tourists (i.e. families, tour groups) as well as locals that go with their friends and families. Some locals go to these temples/shrines to pray or to give offering. It is a holy place and many tourists/visitors like myself tend to forget that sometimes, so it is polite to observe courtesy at all times.
- Have some spare change/cash with you. Some temples/shrines have an entrance fee. They also sell some merchandise inside and there are many food stalls, souvenir shops at the entrance/exit of these temples. I can tell you now, the green tea ice cream and pork siomai I ate at the Arashimaya station were amazing. I almost cried when I didn’t have enough change to buy another one.
3. Think of the season you’re going. We went during the cherry blossom or sakura season, and that’s another reason for attracting large crowds. Make sure to have a warm jacket or coat even during springtime or a light cardigan just in case it gets chilly. If you don’t have issues bringing an umbrella, even better.
4. Once you’ve decided on the places you want to check out, then start mapping out your route. Again research on how to best get there, some of these temples are within walking distance from each other so you want to avoid zigzagging and or missing out on another temple that’s just beside the temple you visited (even if it’s not on your list). Believe me, after 4-5 temples, they all start to look the same lol.
Here are some of the temples/shrines we visited in Kyoto.
Fushimi Inari Shrine or Fushimi Inari Taisha, probably one of the most iconic shrines in Kyoto and maybe the whole of Japan. It’s world famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates but to get a decent solo picture with these gates as backdrop is a challenge so I will be posting all the decent ones we’ve managed to take, considering the effort that we put into it. Oh, and Inari is said to be the God of Rice, so just another reason why I love love this shrine.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion) officially Rokuon-ji Temple. This beautiful Buddhist temple manages to stay minimalistic even when it’s coated in gold.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, you may skip this spot if you’re not interested in bamboos but amidst the soaring stalks of the largest member of the grass family and you’d think you’re being transported in another time. It’s like being on a set film and some ninja’s are gonna start flying from one bamboo to another and start throwing shuriken at each other. Yeah I watch too many movies/animes.
Tenryu-ji Temple or Tenryū Shiseizen-ji, the great thing is, the bamboo grove is just opposite to this beautiful Buddhist temple. We spent some time admiring the garden and again took gazillion photos of the cherry blossoms because you can never have enough.
Honen-in Temple, this would have to be one of my favourite temples because out of the many we’ve visited, it’s by far the simplest and the least popular. It’s quite hard to explain. It’s walking distance from another popular temple Ginkakuji which we decided to skip. It’s quite secluded and because it’s not as popular, there are less crowds and you have more time to appreciate the temple.
Philosopher’s Walk or Philosopher’s Path – This two kilometre’s path is prettiest in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. It’s almost like a fairytale. The path begins around Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion).
There are still plenty of places I want to explore in Kyoto but that will have to wait until I make my way back. Here’s wishing that will happen soon.