After two weeks in Tokyo it was time to take the Shinkansen down to Kyoto. We originally had 5 days there, but after taking out the first & last day for travel between cities and Michael not being well enough to leave the apartment our first official day, it really only left us 2 full days for exploring. Kyoto for me was kind of my little break. We didn't hunt out any shops, we caught up with a good friend who moved to Japan a few years back & I hardly took my camera out with me. From what I have seen it isn't common that people travelling to Kyoto stay here very long, it may be because the accomodation (even Air Bnb) are more expensive here, or that they take day trips while in Osaka. What I really wanted from Kyoto was to experience our first true 'Fall' and it definitely delivered that.
A huge thanks to Michael for letting me steal a lot of his photographs for this post.
WHERE TO STAY
When we were planning our trip we knew we wanted to have one of our apartments be traditionally Japanese and Kyoto would be the place to make that happen. We found this apartment in the neighbourhood of Nakagyo Ward. It was traditional but a super short walk to cute cafes and restaurants. The plus of this one was that it was above a Vegan Restaurant & Bar. Neither myself or Michael are vegan but he is vege so this was a huge help. A dinner experience was included in our stay and as someone who thinks they could never be vegan - Ukishima Garden Restaurant & Bar changed me. Hands down some of the best food I had in Japan.
WHAT TO DO
As much as I am sure there are amazing shops and places to eat in Kyoto, my main focus was on what to see..
Explore the streets of Gion for traditional architecture and traditional dress. It is such a beautiful area and it is nice to see the locals getting professional photos in their traditional dress. The only shame was the actions of tourists trying to hijack their professional shoots. I saw so many travellers getting in the way of shots so that they could get their 'geisha' shot. It was a real shame so I would encourage you put away your camera and see the situation for what it really is.
We spent the second half of our last day exploring Higashiyama. There are a few amazing temples to find along the way and is a beautiful walk. The small streets are also lined with stores and places to eat along the way. If you are to spend your money in any of the shops - go to the ceramic stores. They are dotted all the way along and you can find some absolutely beautiful pieces. You can also line up for Arabica Coffee if you're not heading our to Arashiyama.
Arashiyama is a area not far out from Kyoto Central and easily accessible via a train. This is one of tourist destinations where everyone is trying to get 'the shot' but unless you're prepared to get there at 5AM there is going to be people in your image. We spent the day there with our friend that moved here and his girlfriend just walking and being completely in awe of the Fall colours. This place in fall is nature porn at its best.
The bamboo forest is here but to be honest it is so much smaller than you think and you're walking through like sardines. I loved walking up through the other paid gardens though. We came across a 'Tea Room' which we had all to ourselves and was pure bliss.
We also decided to go up to see the Monkeys. Half way up there was a cartoon of a monkey with boxing gloves on and an instruction not to look them in the eye. If you saw my Instagram Story of this you know how I felt. We got to the top, saw the monkeys and started our walk back down within 4 minutes.
Don't go to Arashiyama for the monkeys or the pictures in the bamboo forest, go to see the gardens and the landscapes that you may not see anywhere else. Go for Arabica Coffee. The line is always long but if you have the whole day there then it's worth the wait.
WHAT I DIDN'T EXPECT
Good fucking coffee.
Drip Drop Coffee Supply is a great place to stop for coffee and a bite to eat
Arabica Coffee has amazing branding and even better coffee.
Hints of new Kyoto.
Due to being known for their traditional nature, I didn't expect to see some amazing minimalist Japanese architecture. You can feel the juxtaposition there between the old and the new and the relationship between the two. I was all for it.
NEXT STOP, OSAKA >
I know this guide was short but hopefully sweet.