We arrived in Kyoto from Tokyo by the bullet train. The journey was fortunately free because we had the JR Pass, and it lasted for about 3 or 3 and a half hours ( very fast ).
We arrived in Kyoto at 2:00 AM. From the Kyoto Station, we took a short night walk to the hotel where we booked a room for two nights at the price of $111.5 ( or 2,834 yen ). After getting the keys to the room, we slept till morning came.
We woke up to watch the sun rise while drinking a mug of delicious cranberry green tea. After that, we ate breakfast, we took the public bus to see Arashiyama Area. Be aware because ,unlike Tokyo, Kyoto relies on large public buses. We were unaware of this and unfortunately caught off guard when we couldn’t take fast trains to get around. We arrived in Saga-Arashiyama, the bus station and walked to the area. First up, Tenyru-Ji Shrine and its accompanying zen garden. So many beautiful plants and flowers ( nicely labeled in both English and Japanese ) here, such as the Japanese wisteria, which you’ll never see outside of Japan. Once we exited the garden, we came across the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove/Forest. Walking through the Bamboo Grove is definitely one of the essential experiences to have in Kyoto! The grove is much smaller than I thought, taking roughly 15 minutes to walk through, but is absolutely excellent for photography. By the way, don't forget to look up at the towering bamboo! Before heading to our next location, we enjoyed a few vending machine coffees and teas here while pelasing our eyes with the beautiful view of the emerald lake sitting in the middle of the bamboo forest. Next up, we walked to the Iwatayama Monkey Park! It's about a 15-20 minute walk completely uphill to reach the park, but definitely worth it! The entrance to the park is near the orange shrine gate at the south side of the Togetsu-kyo bridge. The park is a nice change from the temples and shrines you’ll be seeing a lot of in Kyoto, and it’s so much fun to feed the monkeys for only $1 ( 100 yen ). There’s also a wonderful view of Kyoto from up there, so be sure not to miss out on that! We spend hours watching the simple, fascinating and similar to ours life of the monkeys. Next, we took the bus to the Golden Pavilion, which is a super impressive building that's made entirely of gold! Reflected in the lake, it’s no wonder that visiting the place is one of the top things to do in Kyoto. The sun was slowly setting as we watched the golden building shine less and less until night came. We took the bus to our hotel, where we took one good nap to fill ourselves for the last day in "Country of the Rising Sun".
We started the day by taking the public bus from the station near our hotel to Nishiki Market, a place where you can find different food stalls, in which you can try a lot of Japanese cuisine dishes and treats. The market is a great place to dive into some of the more unusual dishes. This is the place where I triend the well-known tempura ( battered and fried fish dish ), udon ( dense and chewy noodle made from wheat flour ) and soba ( another type of noodle dish that has been eaten in Japan for centuries ). These were all great pieces of art, each having a different taste and energy attached to it. We didn't leave the market until we found a vendor that prepared us tako tamago ( the infamous dish which consists of a baby octopus filled with a quail egg ).
After our fix of Japanese delicacies, we walked on over to Gion, Kyotos famous geisha district. Luck wasn't again on our side and we weren't able to spot a true geisha because they tend to walk fast to their destination and don’t like to show their face. However, if you are lucky enough to find a geisha, show some respect to their culture by not following them or pointing the camera directly at them.
We then took the bus to Higashiyama District, the world famous hub of Kyoto’s best-known shrines and temples. Sannenzaka and Ninensaka are the two most beautiful streets in the district, each filled with numerous souvenir shops and eateries. It can get rather crowded during the day, so we chose to come a bit before dusk. Make sure to try the sakura cream-puff. This was my favorite desert I had eaten in all of Japan beacause it has an unique flavor. The combination of the soft dough and the sweet and tasty cream make this desert a "must-try" when visiting Japan.
We ended the day by walking on the Philosopher’s Path ( Tetsugaku-no-michi ), a picturesque path that runs along a narrow river and is lined with more cherry blossom trees than we ever imagined! Bring your girlfriend/wife here for a passionate walk at the end of the day. It will surely bring the romance out of them and you will have a great time together just as I had with my wife, Mary. Our walk ended at the Silver Pavilion, although not as fancy and intricate as the Golden Pavilion, and not even lined in silver, but still impressive nonetheless.
After visiting everything we had on our bucket list, we took our luggages from the hotel and left for the train to Osaka International Airport, from where we left for home.
I hope this itinerary helped you plan your next journey to Japan! I am really glad that I could share all I've done and visited in the Country of the Rising Sun. If you want, you can read my other itineraries to help you pick a country to visit. Have fun visiting this beautiful region of Asia!
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