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18 May, 2017


geisha gion kyoto travel guide japan

After a whirlwind 4 days in Tokyo, we were ready for a change of scenery and pace and headed to Kyoto. We took the Shinkansen Nozami 227 bullet train and managed to catch a glimpse of the magnificent Mount Fuji in all it's glory. It was a beautiful clear day and I ran to the window to get a photo! Here's my travel diary of our time in Kyoto, hope you enjoy reading it :)

Mount Fuji bullet train

We arrived into Kyoto station after about 2 and a 1/2 hours on the train and found our way to our Hotel. It was in a pretty convenient location, right on a main road of shops and restaurants and in walking distance to 3 metro stations. The hotel was much bigger than Tokyo, with a separate toilet, shower room as well as sofa, it felt like such a luxury! We're here for 4 and a half days with a day to Osaka as well. 


As it was late in the afternoon, we decided to stay local and explore the Nishiki food market. The market is in a covered and narrow space, it's busy but feels calm and friendly. The market has a medley of street food, desserts, fresh fish, vegetables and other fresh produce. We tried the squid balls - Takoyaki, which are balls of flour and diced octopus and topped with spring onions and takoyaki sauce. It was very slimy and hot! The walk up to the market was really nice, it felt very different to Tokyo. I was a little worried I might not like Kyoto as much but I had nothing to worry about as Kyoto is so charming and quaint.

KYOTO JAPAN TRAVEL DIARY, things to see and do in Kyoto, Kyoto Japan travel guide, Must see in Kyoto.
KYOTO JAPAN TRAVEL DIARY, things to see and do in Kyoto, Kyoto Japan travel guide, Must see in Kyoto.


I planned a walking itinerary using the Japan-Guide and saved it to Google Maps, highlighting the landmarks around Gion to make it easier for us. We started off by walking down towards Gion Shirakawa and it was the start of a lovely walk. There were cherry blossoms, girls dressed up in Geisha costumes, old traditional houses and temples along the way that felt distinctly old Japan. We stopped by Kenniji, Hokanji and Kodai-ji Temple and walked through the streets of Higashiyama.

We didn't make it to Kiyomizu- dera temple as it's a long walk up but add that to your list as I read it has good views up there! The walk was about 45 minutes and a great way to take in the sights. On the way back to our hotel, Hang spotted a Kimono glass art gallery and it was free to enter. Inside there were beautiful displays of kimono glass prints, definitely recommend popping in here!

KYOTO JAPAN TRAVEL DIARY, things to see and do in Kyoto, Kyoto Japan travel guide, Must see in Kyoto.
Kimono glass art gallery
Kimono glass art gallery


We head off to Arsashiyama today to see the Bamboo Forest, a must see in Kyoto. We take the metro and change for the train to Arashiyama, it's an old style train with one long carriage. When we arrive there's a lot of hustle and bustle as everyone is enjoying the shops and cafes in the area. We follow the crowds up to the Bamboo Forest. It was a beautiful sight being amongst all the tall bamboo trees, it reminded me of the film House of Flying Daggers. We enjoy the leisurely walk even though it's crowded and hard to take photos, it's still an amazing experience. We also made a pit stop to grab some ice cream :)


As we made our way out of the grove we came across a clearing and took the steps down. The view was truly breathtaking, I felt like I was in some old movie when I came down and and saw the river and lush trees. It was so calm and peaceful, this was definitely the highlight our my trip!

In the evening we wanted to experience Japanese night life and found out of one of the best clubs in Kyoto - Butterfly was across the road from our hotel! It cost 700 Yen for non Japanese people and included a drink. The club had a great atmosphere, music and vibe and we danced til the morning. On the way back to our hotel, we grabbed a snack from the 7/11 before crashing out, haha.


On our last day in Kyoto we head to Fushimi Inari, famous for it's thousands of torii gates. The Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari and this place has ancient origins dating back to Kyoto in 794! The torii gates along the trail have been donated by people and companies and their names have been inscribed on the back of each gate. It was very impressive to walk along the trail, it takes 2-3 hours to finish the trail up to the mount but you can go as far as you like and walk back. It's easy to get here by subway and it's a short walk to the shrine. Again this is an extremely popular destination, filled with people, you have to keep moving down the gates as it's quite narrow. Just watch out for all the selfie sticks and cameras!
Fushimi Inari,Fushimi Inari,
Fushimi Inari, Kyoto Japan

After leaving the shrine, I saw a sign for a traditional matcha tea house and I was so excited. I always wanted to visit a traditional tea house and it was such a lovely experience. I go for the matcha tea and Hang has the green tea, both are served with a sweet treat. We take off our shoes and walk inside. It was beautiful and simple, we were lucky to get a spot by the open window looking out into the garden. The tea was really good but I did prefer Hang's iced green tea, it was so fresh and full of flavour, nothing like I've tasted before. It was nice to take a breather and sit down and we were also allowed to wonder in the garden afterwards, which was so lush and serene. 

Matcha tea house
Matcha Tea House Kyoto
Kyoto Tower views
As it was getting towards sunset in Kyoto and a beautiful clear day, we decide to go up Kyoto Tower. The viewing room is quite small but we took a seat and watched the sun go down. We thought it would be busy with a queue but it was quick to go up. This was the perfect way to end our wonderful trip. 

That's it for Kyoto, we had an amazing time and I was really sad to leave. It has the best of both worlds, the traditional as well as the modern side of Japan. It was a trip I will always treasure and feel so lucky to had experienced.

Kyoto Travel Diary things to see and do.

What do you think of Kyoto?

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