Kyoto is my favorite place in Japan. On my first visit to Japan I went to Kyoto with some skepticism, though I have no idea why. I chose to stay in Osaka, with a day trip to Kyoto which quickly turned into three day trips. It was hot, sticky, vast and beautiful. Based on this initial experience, I knew that my next trip to Japan would be focused around Kyoto. After a long train trip from Hakuba, we finally arrived in Kyoto. After checking in we made our way to an Okonomiyaki restaurant. The stay was off to its best possible start.
Kyoto is the historical heart of Japan. It escaped serious devastation from bombing during World War II, though it was considered as a possible target for the atomic bomb. As a result of the limited damage Kyoto sustained, it is one of the few cities in Japan that still have many of its pre-war buildings. Kyoto is a city of temples and gardens, one of the most beautiful places in Japan, if not the world regardless of the season.
We started our first morning in Kyoto with a trip to the west side of the city, visiting some gardens as well as the Bamboo forest. This was a repeat, but still well worth the visit. This is a very dense forest of Bamboo, a scene out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The path through the middle is surrounded on both sides, creating a setting that feels very “Asian”. Our day of sightseeing turned into a long walking day, making our way to two other major sights that day, the Golden Pagoda and the Ryoanji temple, home to the most famous rock garden in Japan. Along the way to these we had the amazing experience at the conveyor sushi restaurant, ensuring that our Kyoto memories would be good ones. The Pagoda was awesome, though the rock garden was a bit disappointing. I think we expected more than the single garden that is there. It was tranquil, but in an underwhelming way. I will let the pictures tell the story of these sights.
The following day we made our way to Osaka in the afternoon. Before heading there we found some time to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is home to thousands of Orange Inari Shrine, most dedicated to the memory of ancestors. They are stacked one after another on the side of the hill, making a dark almost spooky path. These are one of the classic sights in Japan, and the mountainside full of them is a sight to behold. This was the another of the major Kyoto sights I missed last time, but is on the must see list for anyone that is visiting Kyoto.
On our last day we had been to most of the sites we wanted to see. We made our way into the downtown area for some last minute shopping before hopping on the Shinkansen for the quick trip back to Tokyo. Kyoto was far and away our favorite stop in Japan. I would call it the most Japanese city according to the Western idea of Japan, but it also offered our favorite food and the most interesting sights we encountered in Japan.