One of the highlights of Julie's visit was our trip to Kyoto. Kyoto is famous for it's temples, shrines, and rich history. Being more nature lovers than history buffs Julie and I knew we wanted to take a trip somewhere, but we weren't initially sure that Kyoto was the right destination. I'm so glad we ignored our doubts, because we had a wonderful trip full filled with beautiful scenery and relaxing gardens mixed in with the rich history.
We had planned on taking a longer trip, but even booking a couple months ahead hotels were almost entirely sold out because of the increased tourism for cherry blossom season. I was only able to find a place for two nights, and we paid far more than we would have at other times of year. Our hotel was near Kyoto station which turned out to be extremely convenient for transportation, but has less nightlife, so keep that in mind if it's a priority for you.
Because we would be there during sakura season I planned our trip with crowds in mind. We tried to start early each day, and use as the trains as much as possible so that we wouldn't have to rely on overcrowded and often delayed buses. Unlike Tokyo the train stations are much farther apart in Kyoto, making them much less convenient.
We left Monday morning from Tokyo station on the bullet train. I bought our tickets a few days in advance just to be sure that we would have seats on the right hand side of the train in hopes of seeing Mt. Fuji if the weather was clear. A note about buying shinkansen tickets - if you're willing to pay cash, you can buy them directly from the green ticket machines in English. This is often much faster than buying them at the counter, but the benefit of that is that they will accept foreign credit cards.
On the ride we lucked out, and had a beautiful clear view of Mt. Fuji. We brought lunches to eat on the train, and had a great time chatting and relaxing as the country flew by. The bullet train is often more expensive than flying, but I have to admit that it is SO much more pleasant. When we reached Kyoto station we put our bags in a locker and immediately took a train out to Arashiyama, the western forested edge of Kyoto.
From the station we walked down to the Togetsukyo Bridge for the famous view of the river and the mountains, then backtracking to Tenryuji temple. It is totally worth the 600 yen to walk through both the temple and garden. We walked around for a while and then spent some time just sitting in the sun staring out at the beautiful scenery. Finally we exited out the back right of the temple into the famous bamboo forest.
The bamboo forest was fairly crowded. We had to angle our cameras up above everyone's heads to get clear photos of just the bamboo. Luckily it's very tall! We saw a few models taking pictures out in the forest, and even snapped a few of our own pictures of them. Through the forest we walked to Okochi Sanso, a private garden that used to be the property of a Japanese period actor. Admission is 1000 yen, which is high, but because so few people are willing to pay it is extremely uncrowded. This was one of our favorite experiences because of the lack of crowds. Admission also includes tickets for matcha and a small traditional sweet at the tea house at the end of your visit.
After a peaceful afternoon surrounded by nature we walked back towards the station, doing a little souvenir shopping along the away. When we got back to Kyoto we picked up our bags, and checked into our hotel.
Once we'd had some time to refresh ourselves we headed out to the Kawaramachi area (easily accessible from Kawaramachi or Gion Shijo stations). This is a fantastic place to explore, eat, and drink, and I can't say enough good things about it. The old streets and alleys are so beautiful it seemed like I was stopping every other second to take more pictures. We walked around the canal that was surrounded by beautiful weeping sakura, found a delicious yakitori place for dinner, and then continued exploring after dinner. If the weather had been warmer it would have been lovely to walk along the Kamo River, but we were too cold to give it a try. Eventually Julie's jet lag caught up with her so we caught a cab home and went to bed early.
|Mt. Fuji from the train|
|Sakura at Tenruji|
|Arashiyama's Bamboo Forest|
|Models in the Bamboo|
|You should eat here - they even have an English menu!|
Arashiyama (Tenryuji and Okochi Sanso)
Read about the rest of our trip:
Kiyomizudera, Nanzenji, and The Philosopher's Path