TRAVELING TO KYOTO
Considering Kyoto doesn’t have an airport, Osaka is the closest major city I could fly into. As soon as I got out of customs and claimed my bag, I went straight to the Japan Rail Station to purchase my tickets for Kyoto.
Although there are other options to get to Kyoto, such as bus or shuttle service, the train was the fastest and easiest option. The whole entire ride was smooth, comfortable, and took approximately 75 minutes.
The change of pace from Tokyo to Kyoto was quite evident. The moment I stepped out of the train station in Kyoto, the vibe and energy of the city was calming and relaxing. It was a complete 180 from Tokyo where the sheer pace on how things can happen and how people move can overwhelm anyone.
BEST SIGHTS TO SEE IN AND AROUND KYOTO
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (Nanzen-ji)
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest was the number one place to visit in my Kyoto itinerary.
Located about 20-minutes on the outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest will leave you speechless with its giant bamboo stalks. Walking around this area will make you feel like you are in another world. Must visit.
2. The Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji)
A popular tourist attraction, this temple was built in 1397 and is covered entirely in gold.
3. The Fushimi Inari Tori Gates
If you’ve seen Memoirs of a Geisha, this place will look oddly familiar. These grounds are said to hold over 10,000 gates that dates back all the way from 711 A.D. Let that sink in for a minute!
Arguably the most famous Geisha district in all of Japan, not just in Kyoto. This historical neighborhood offers restaurants, shops, ochaya (teahouses) and Geishas quietly going from place to place to entertain their clients.
This little town just outside of Kyoto is known for its shrines, temples, gardens, and…bambi. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many deers roaming around as much as I did in Nara.
CUISINE IN KYOTO
Kyoto offers some of the richest culinary tradition in all of Japan. However, the experience to taste authentic Japanese cuisine comes with the price tag. But if you are a Japanese cuisine aficionado, the experience is worth every penny.
Check out Inside Kyoto – they have a great list of different cuisines and restaurants to try in Kyoto.
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan. Also, many of the scenes from the popular movie Memoirs of a Geisha were filmed here.
SOMETHING FIRST ON THIS TRIP
Hunting Geishas. They’re not easy to spot!
The first time I went to Japan was in 2009 and I remember being disappointed because I didn’t see a Geisha. For those of you know who don’t know who they are or what they do, Geisha’s are Japanese women who are profesionally trained in the arts of music, dance, and entertainment (Geisha in Japanese literally means “person of art” – see also “Memoirs of a Geisha”). They are iconic Japanese entertainers and has been a big part of the Japanese culture as far back as the 18th century. They are mostly hired by businessmen who has a budget of roughly $1000 USD an hour for their entertainment services (serving sake, playing musical instruments, among others….)
Anyway, with that said, there are barely any Geisha’s in Tokyo. Most of them reside and work in Gion (one of the oldest neighborhoods in all of Japan) where you can still see some posters advertising Geisha shows.
For those who wish to spot them – head over and walk around Gion between 4-6 p.m. where you may spot a Geisha heading to work. However, these Geishas are quite shy and will not stop for a photo op. You just gotta do a selfie and snap real quick!
If you want to be close to the arts and culture in Kyoto, look for AirBnb in the Gion District. There are plenty of selection where you can find Machiya residences (traditional housing) or single bedroom with traditional Japanese interior design.
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I stayed in an Airbnb in Kyoto, and it's probably one of my favorite places I've stayed at, ever. The room is in a typical Japanese wooden townhouses (called machiya) where the bed is basically on the floor with wooden table right next to it and kimonos hung around on the wall. The place is nothing fancy, it's actually quite small. But man, thats one part of traveling that I love is being immersed in the culture. Kawaiiii!!!✌🏽 — 📍Kyoto, Japan 🇯🇵