After arriving super early and settling my luggage at my hotel in Kyoto (~7-ish), I set out to explore the city I was most excited about and have captured my heart (and my wallet). A good tip is to buy the 1 day bus pass (600 yen) and you’re all set for exploring the city. The subway pass (600 yen) is not necessary for getting to most of the attractions so don’t make the same mistake I did by buying it. But if you really do need the subway pass, buy the subway + bus pass combo. That will save you about 100 – 200 yen as compared to buying them separately (which I did because the tourist offices were not yet opened when I arrived in Kyoto – downside of arriving too early).
I started out with the furthest place from the city centre – Shimogamo shrine. It is one of the most important and oldest shrine in Kyoto, alongside the Kamigamo shrine. The shrine is free to explore and because it is a lot further out, you only get a handful of tourists at the site. Most of the patrons are devotees which made this visit a nice, zen start to my temple/shrine visit in Kyoto.
I find this pretty interesting – the tying of a rope around a tree/rock etc. to keep spirits tied to them and prevent them from harming others.
Totally in awe at how peaceful and pretty this place is.
Next is the famous golden temple – Kinkakuji. At 400 yen/adult, it’s really quite an underwhelming place. Even when I arrived at 9 am (just as it open its doors), there was already a long queue in place. The crowd was huge and once inside, you basically move with the flow. Aside from the golden pavilion, there’s nothing else of interest in this area. So I quickly left for Ryoanji.
Ryoanji, or the stone garden, (500 yen/adult) was surprisingly a superbly nice place to visit. Other than a stone garden that strangely made me feel quite calm as I sit on the wooden steps and zone out, there was also a beautiful garden behind the temple compound. The “zone out” was nice until I was almost “kicked” off the steps by another tourist.
It is pretty unique that the cleansing basin is in the design of a coin.
Look at the beautiful weeping sakura trees!
Yudoufu – a vegetarian tofu restaurant located within Ryoanji. Because of the high quality of water in Kyoto, tofu (despite being a common dish) is one of the specialty items. I was a bit hesitant to eat here because of mixed reviews, plus, it is pretty pricey (3300 yen) for a tofu only set meal.
But I don’t regret it. I think of it as paying for an experience and a great view of the blooming sakura in the garden. For those who are more meat-based eaters, dislike tofu or considerably plain tasting meals, then this might not be a place you would enjoy. I was more focus on the texture of the tofu and its raw taste so this made me appreciate the meal a lot more. Also, I generally consume a lot of tofu on a daily basis as my source of protein, so I am quite used to it.
Just look at this, where else will you be able to dine with such a view!
A simple delicacy of tofu in clear water that goes well with plain rice, served with a side of different pickles, tofu skin, tofu-version of a pudding and salad. It’s a simple meal but it is made with high quality ingredients that came together to make it a refreshing and cleansing lunch to the palette. I was also rather appreciative of the simplicity of this meal that made tofu the focus rather than all the flavours that come with the addition of various condiments. It was a good meal and a good lesson for the heart.
After the meal, I made my way to Nijo castle (600 yen/adult). There was a long queue of about a 15 mins wait to get my ticket. But the weather that day started to warm up a bit so I was feeling quite warm in my sweater, jacket, heat-tech leggings and jeans. It made me wonder if I should go shopping for some summer clothes because I only brought stuff for cooler weather. Fortunately, I didn’t need to make any purchases because it started pouring rain over the next few days and the temperature dropped.
As with most castle, I went in to have a look around but it was not of much interest to me.
After the castle visit, I groggily made my way to Nishiki market after dozing off in the bus I thought to be heading in the right direction before realising I was moving in the opposite direction after 20 mins. Silly and tired me. If I was leaving for home right after Kyoto, I would have bought some food items from here to bring back because they looked really good. However, I had another week in Japan so I could only feast with my eyes.
Having heard good things about the elephant factory coffee from Simon and Martina’s vlog about Kyoto, I headed there for their coffee and cheesecake (1100 yen in total). It’s a really small and quiet place with a laid-back atmosphere.
Coupling the bitter black coffee with a dense, slightly sweet cheesecake really hits the spot for a mid afternoon perk me up.
I left the cafe for boroniya – a bread shop that came highly praised from Simon and Martina’s vlog. As I made my way through a leisurely stroll across the city, I came across this river view that made me think of it as a classic Japanese scene. I loved it. Can I also highlight how clear the river water is – I’ve not seen such clear waters in the city other than in Japan.
The bread here has this croissant style edge with a soft, fluffy interior. I got a slice of the butter flavoured one for breakfast the next day and an apple and cinnamon one for desert. Both were so wonderful that I came back on my last day in Kyoto to buy a loaf of earl grey flavoured bread for breakfast for the rest of my remaining days in Japan. It was love and sadness when I ate my last piece. The earl grey was my favourite of the lot but I am biased towards most tea-flavoured things when they are good (since good ones are hard to come by).
A quick snap in the middle of the road when the light was red.
I absolutely adore the vibes coming off all these olden architecture.
Hokanji temple ( or the Yasaka pagoda) situated right in the middle of olden Kyoto. There’s a number of kimono rental shops lining the streets and you’ll see tourists hobbling around in the uncomfortable wooden clogs that pairs with a kimono.
The packed streets of Higashiyama as I made my way to Kiyomizudera temple (400 yen/adult). Fortunately, I arrived at the temple just as the sun was starting to set so this shrouded the temple in a beautiful warm glow that made the visit so much more special.
Some devotees praying in the temple.
Cute little love stone. It is said if you can walk and touch the stone with your eyes close, you’ll be with your partner for a long time.
I just can’t get over how rejuvenating and heart warming to witness the setting sun as the sakura sways and falls in the cool spring eye. It was truly a moment for strengthening the tired soul in me.
Headed to the Gion district and spotted 2 geishas and a maiko rushing for their evening duties. I actually saw 2 geishas standing in an alleyway (which I was supposed to turn into but missed) just off the main street waiting for their taxi. So when I turned around to walk into the alley, I was shocked by how white their faces are from the powder. So I stood around, wanting to snap a picture but feeling it would be quite rude. But their taxi came quickly and they rushed off.
After turning into the alleyway, I was just wandering about the area hoping to spot more of them. Then I saw a maiko getting off a cab and rushing into a restaurant, guided by the restaurant employee. It was quite a memorable experience even though I don’t have any shots of it. So cool!
Walked over to poncho to feel the vibe before heading back to the hotel for some random dinner nearby before resting for the day. Till the next post, bye!