Compared to its overly excited neighbour, Tokyo, Kyoto is an ambassador for calm.
Compared to its overly excited neighbour, Tokyo, Kyoto is an ambassador for calm. With a focus on tradition and tranquillity, Kyoto’s many temples and gardens are nothing short of breathtaking. Geisha-spotting is considered something of a sport for tourists, with many to be seen in the atmospheric Gion quarter. As with the rest of Japan, the beautiful nature of the people is impossible to miss.
No money? No problem. Catch the the train to Fushimi Inari Temple, dedicated to the fox god Inari. Easily one of the most striking and beautiful temples in Japan. You can explore the grounds by following the orange torii ‘tunnels’, which also make for amazing photos. When your stomach starts to rumble, head back to Kyoto’s Kitchen, otherwise known as Nishiki Market, for a lunch you won’t forget. A lively retail market specialising in all things food-related, this is the place to explore the culinary delights for which Kyoto is famous. Taste-test your way down the five-block long street with the peace of mind that almost everything is locally produced and sourced.
Some yen to spend
If you’re a little more flush with funds, try catching the bus north to Kinkaku-ji; the Golden Pavilion is formerly the retirement villa of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. For around five dollars you can see the impressive Zen temple, of which the top two floors are covered in gold leaf. It’s also worth visiting Arashiyama, a tourist hub in the western outskirts of Kyoto, where you can walk past the many small shops and restaurants until you reach the landmark Togetsukyo Bridge. If you’re feeling energetic, take the time to explore the Bamboo Groves, including the many hidden temples and surrounding rural towns either on foot or bike. And if you’re looking for a truly Japanese experience, dine at Negiyaheikichi Kyototakasegawa and sit on the floor of this traditional restaurant, which serves dishes using only seasonal vegetables.
Cash to splash
Start by catching the bullet train to Kyoto, an experience not to be missed. Unbelievably, for the speed it goes, you can still have a drink sitting on your tray table without any spillage. Immerse yourself in the country’s culture by signing up for a traditional tea ceremony at En in Gion, where you will learn the art of making the perfect green tea from your kimono-clad teacher. Unleash your inner Geisha, at the Maica shop in Gion, where, from $85, you will be transformed. Don’t forget to take photos for prosperity or, at a slightly higher cost, you can head out and visit the gardens and temples in your new get-up. Finish off the evening by dining in one of the many high-end restaurants which populate Gion, located in traditional wooden machiya merchant houses.
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