Day Three: Kyoto
Welcome to the ancient world of old Japan: Geisha, temples and beautiful historic buildings.
Catch an early JR train to Saga Arashiyama (aim to arrive before half 8 to avoid crowds) to visit the famous bamboo grove. Walk through the sky high greenery to Okochi Sanso, the beautiful hillside villa and zen gardens that once belonged to Denjiro Okochi , a famous Japanese silent movie actor. The 1000 Yen entry fee also includes a cup of green tea in the tea house.
Take the JR train as far as Emmachi station and catch the bus to Kinkakuji Temple, with its stunning golden pavillion reflected in a lake. Then catch the bus as far as Nijo Castle and walk for half an hour to Nishiki Market for lunch. Take advantage of the free samples on offer, and try the huge range of streetfood on offer, from miniature octopus on a stick to pickled vegetables, grilled yakitori chicken skewers and sembei crackers.
NB: eating on the hoof is a definite no no in Japan, so eat your purchases next to the stalls before moving on.
Finally, take an evening stroll around Gion. Best enjoyed after dark, this is Kyoto's famous geisha district so keep an eye out as you explore the old streets of 17th century wooden tea houses and restaurants to see if you can spot any. Please be sure to be respectful of these women and do not follow them or take photos of them. Pay a visit to Yasaka Shrine to see its beautiful illuminated paper lanterns, and head to Gion Yuki for dinner - a fantastic izakaya with seats around the bustling kitchen.
Day Four: Kyoto
Another early train, this time on the JR Nara line to Inari (make sure it's a "local" train, the rapid trains don't stop at Inari!) to visit the mindblowing Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shinto shrine complex world famous for its astonishing tunnels of red torii gates making their way up the sacred mountain through beautiful Japanese forest. Be sure to persevere all the way to the top, as crowds get thinner the higher you go and the place is far more mystical and zen when it's quieter.
Take the Keihan line train from Inari to Kiyomizu Gojo and walk to Kiyomizu Dera, a beautiful Buddhist temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to explore the whole site, including the beautiful pagodas, the impressive huge main hall with its large veranda and the Jishu shrine dedicated to matchmaking, complete with a pair of love stones. It is said that if a pilgrim can walk from one stone to the other with their eyes closed, they will find true love.
Walk the old stone paved paths lined with wooden shops past the stunning wooden pagoda of Hōkan-ji Temple, and wind your way down Nineizaka (keep an eye out for a Starbucks in disguise!) towards Maruyama Park. Cross straight over the park to visit Chion In and then walk further still to Nanzen Ji and Eikan Do. A bus from nearby will take you all the way back to Kyoto station.