Travel Notes: Kyoto

Ok, this post is 3 months overdue, but I still have to post it here to do my trip to Kyoto justice! I stayed at Kyoto for 2 days, due to the numerous shrines and tourist spots around Kyoto. I also used Kyoto as my home base when exploring western Japan, which includes Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Hiroshima. If you’d like you can add Nagoya and Nara, but due to time restriction I was unable to go there.

If you’ve been following manga or anime like me, the you know that Kyoto is somehow always got involved in some grand mystical scheme of demons and exorcists. Looking at the city and the numerous shrines within, coupled with its old feeling, it is just appropriate. Yes it is.

How to get to Kyoto

If you arrived in Japan via KIX, then the Haruka express train can reach Kyoto within 1 hours and 16 minutes (Japanese train schedules are exact to the minute, mind you) for 2980 yen. If you have the JR pass, you can use it here. If you have a lot of luggage, however, it might be better to take the bus from KIX as sometimes you’re unable to get a seat. Kyoto is the last stop, so you don’t have to worry about missing

Where I stayed

Piece hostel Kyoto, a nice hostel located within 5 minutes of walking distance from Kyoto station. They serve breakfast at 8:00 AM, and sometimes they also hold events such as all you can eat takoyakis for a small amount of money. The staffs are helpful, and they post festival events and weather forecast on their wall. Individual dormitory room are somewhere between 2000 to 2500 yen per night.

How to get around Kyoto

Except for Fushimi Inari shrine and Arashiyama, all of the attractions inside Kyoto can be reached using the Navi bus. The bus ticket costs only 500 yen per day, compared to 220 yen per trip if you only use single trip fare. You can buy the ticket at a vending machine in Kyoto bus terminal or at Piece Hostel Kyoto. Now, as to how to use the day pass: when you first got off the bus put the ticket through the machine available next to the bus driver, and the machine will print the current day on your ticket. Next time, you just need to show your stamped ticket to the bus driver each time you got off the bus.

Note: If you’re going somewhere else such as Osaka and Tokyo then I strongly recommend you to buy the Icoca card. This way you don’t have to buy a train ticket each time you want to ride the train.

Nowww, for the sites I visited.

Higashi (East) Honganji Temple

My blunder. The site was under restoration so there really wasn’t much to see. The popular one is actually the Nishi (west) Honganji Temple, not this one

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Yasaka Shrine

The first actual Japanese shrine I visited! The interesting thing is that, many Japanese actually come and pray at these kinds of shrines. Previously, I thought that the modern Japanese people has already forsaken their spirituality, but in actuality you can see people visiting and praying at shrines regularly. It’s best to come here near the evening as you can later explore Gion and Maruyama area straight from this shrine.

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Gion + Higashiyama

The most romantic neighborhood in Kyoto IMO. The streets are lined up with old Japanese houses and tea shops. You can actually rent a Yukata and walk around here wearing that. There are also geishas although I didn’t manage to see any. The neighborhood is alive until around 8 PM, and is actually most beautiful when visited at the evening so when planning your itinerary you can put Gion last.

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Fushimi Inari Shrine

The famous site in Kyoto with its torii gates. All people who went to Japan has this place in their photo collection. This site is inaccessible using the bus, so you will need to take the train to Fushimi Inari Shrine. The shrine is open 24 hours a day, but visiting the site at night won’t be fun I guess. You can watch rituals taking place in this shrine, but since taking pictures of the ritual is prohibited, there are no photograph to show here. You can go all the way to the top (takes around 2-3 hours round trip) but there really isn’t anything at the top so you don’t really need to do that. I just went there because.. why not? Anyway you can see Kyoto from midway, and most people usually take their photograph around the site with a bunch of torii gates at the base of the mountain.

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Kiyomizu-Dera

The most visited temple in Kyoto. Located in a high ground, you can get a good view around Kyoto. Some says that the temple is best visited near evening, but at that time I visited during the afternoon straight after visiting Fushimi Inari.  As a note, the street leading to this temple is lined up with souvenir shops, so you can find lots of cute stuffs. Second note: the kit-kat sold at kinkaku-ji is cheaper than those sold here, so you might want to wait until you get there before hoarding on kit-kats.

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Ginkaku-ji

A pavillion surrounded by japanese garden. Not that impressive, but has a relaxing atmosphere about it. Right outside the pavillion is the philosopher’s path, which is lined by sakura trees. A must see when you get here in springtime.

IMG_3727 IMG_3710 IMG_3709Tenmangu Shrine

A shrine with soo many plum trees. I came at the right time (beginning of March) so the plum flowers are in full blossom. There were so many people at the time, and based on what Nishitani-san told me, there seems to be some kind of festival going on.

Kinkaku-ji

IMG_3765A pavillion..coated in gold. That’s it. Oh but like I said before there’s a souvenir shop selling kit-kats at lower price in front of the complex, and they also sell the wasabi flavored nuts which for some reason isn’t available anywhere else.

BONUS! For people worrying about whether the emulsifier inside Kit-Kat contains pork or not, my friend taught me how to read the ingredients. All you need is find this line: 乳化剤(大豆…) where 大豆 means soybean. If it only says 乳化剤, then the emulsifier probably contains pork.

Nijo castle

A japanese castle surrounded by gardens. The castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and famous for its nightingale floor. The floor makes a chirping sound when you step on it (although I think it’s more of a squeaking sound). My only comment is that shoguns sure make way too much large room with each room serving only a single purpose. Taking photograph is prohibited inside the castle, so I can only show photographs of the garden and the castle from theoutside.

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Bonus! Kyoto station rooftop

I just happened to find this one when I’m looking for what to do in Kyoto during nighttime. Apparently, the rooftop of Kyoto station is popular with couples, so I took a suicidal mission to go there by myself. And yes, it is romantic! the staircase leading there is lined with LEDs which shows changing pictures. The rooftop has minimal lighting, and you can see Kyoto’s night view from above. And then again, there are lovey dovey couples all around me while I’m just wandering around taking photographs. Ack.IMG_3783

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