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10 Apr 2017

MUST SEE SIGHTS IN KYOTO


A couple of weeks ago I got to visit two new places in Japan (one of my favourite countries) - Kyoto and Osaka.
We weren't in either city for very long, but I  tried to see as much as I could in the time that I had, so let me tell you about the places I saw in Kyoto...
Actually, how about I show you. It will literally take a minute.


Kyoto is beautiful. Busy, but beautiful. I understand why so many tourists flock to the city. The main thing I loved was the pattern and colour. Kyoto itself is not overly colourful, but the array of kimono's worn by visiting tourists as they explored Kyoto gave it a sense of vibrancy. 

People walking around in kimonos and the beautifully preserved temples made me feel two things: 
1) Like I was on a film set and 2) Like I had stepped back in time. 

We only had a couple of days in Kyoto and we had an idea of the places we wanted to see and we managed to see them all! 

First up...

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

We wanted to go and see Arashiyama before the crowds arrived. This meant waking up at 5:30am after only 3 hours sleep. It was worth it. As it was a race against the crowds, we decided to take a taxi. This also meant we could sneak in some more sleep. When we arrived at Arashiyama, there were already a few people there. The forest was quiet and the morning sun was starting to break through the tall bamboo. The forest has a quiet calm to it and I'm glad we got to see and experience it. We had been told by a few friends that if you want to beat the crowds and get a chance of getting a photo with nobody in it, we had to get there early. I'm so happy we took their advice. 

There's a lot more to do and see around Arashiyama but we were on a tight schedule. After walking around for a bit and taking some pictures, we headed for our next destination.


Fushimi Inari

This was one place I REALLY wanted to see. After seeing it for the first time in Memoirs of a Geisha, it's striking image has stayed with me. 
Fushimi Inari is another place that is heaving with tourists, so you can try and go super early in the morning or later on in the evening if you want to go when there are less people. We got there at around 9am and it was already crowded. 

If I'm honest, walking through the torii gates is kind of stressful and hard to enjoy when you're in a crowd, but the higher up you walk towards the top of Mt. Inari, the less crowded it becomes.


Kinkakuji

Gold! Kinkakuji is a Zen Buddhist Temple that's been around for thousands of years. Considering its age  - it looks pretty impressive. Obviously, it's had some work done but it's still a sight to behold. Again, Kinkakuji is a popular spot and has queues of people lining up to take pictures. We didn't explore around Kinkakuji, so I can't say if there was anything else to see around it. 

There are lots of temples and shrines to see in Kyoto, but after seeing @_Tuck4's photographs on Instagram, Kinkakuji was definitely a must-see. (You should check out Tuck's photos in general as all of them are amazing and will make you want to go to where he has photographed ASAP!)


Yasaka Shrine / Yasaka Pagoda
Yep, you guessed it. Yasaka shrine was also full of tourists. But to be fair all these sights are beautiful, so it's no wonder people want to go and see them - and that includes me. Yasaka Shrine is probably the place that I saw the most people dressed in kimonos and the place where I felt most like I had stepped back in time. From the main gate all the way through the narrow lanes that lead to Yasaka Pagoda, there are women and men in traditional costume. 

Yasaka shrine is at the end of Shijo-Dori the main shopping street in Kyoto so it is pretty easy to find. 



Other things to do in Kyoto:
Walk around Gion - famous Geisha district
Nishiki Market for snacks and eats
Rent a kimono 
Kiyomizu-dera - historic temple with beautiful views
Ginkaku-ji - Zen temple with tranquil gardens
Philosophers Path - picturesque walk lined with cherry blossom in spring and autumn colours in autumn - obviously.
Visit an Onsen / hot spring

TIPS & INFO:
How we got there: Shinkansen from Tokyo (I was very excited to ride this train!) 
We opted for the Nizomi - the fastest Shinkansen, but there are cheaper Shinkansen and train options that will take an hour or so longer to reach Kyoto. The best part of the journey (apart from going super fast) is buying one of the little bento boxes and eating it on the train. My personal fave - the katsu sando.
Where we stayed: Hotel Grand Bach booked via Booking.com
The hotel was right on the main shopping street of Shijo-dori, so very near everything!
However, once inside the hotel it was very calm and quiet. We only slept there for one night (3 hours to be precise due to having to get up early to go to Arashiyama). Like a lot of Japanese hotels, the rooms were compact but very clean with nice amenities. We didn't get to try any of the food or the other hotel facilities since we were out most of the time. Our room was on the 10th floor and had a great view straight down Shijo-dori.
Misc: If you want to see these places empty, then I would suggest going to bed early. If you like your sleep and don't want to do that, then I suggest having a little patience. I found at Fushimi Inari, there would be waves of people but then a small break where you can take a picture. You may have to wait a while, but an opening does happen. I don't know if that works at all the places, but you can try :)

Have fun if you go to Kyoto! Let me know your favourite places in Kyoto so I can add them to the list for the next time.

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What I used to take pictures and shoot video:
Sony RX100 M3 / DJI Osmo Mobile with my iPhone6


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