While in Japan, we decided to take full advantage of the awesome bullet trains they have to offer. We decided on a day trip over to Kyoto, as it is known as Japan’s most beautiful city. We took the 2 hour bullet train first thing in the morning (6am!) so we could have a full day exploring the city.
The first stop on our trip was Kiyomizu-dera. It is a Buddhist temple situated in the beautiful rolling hills just on the edge of town. This was definitely the most unique temple we’ve seen. It was almost like a huge tree house! And the beautiful deck offered some breathtaking views of the Kyoto city skyline. The popular expression “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression “to take the plunge”. This refers to an old tradition that, if you jump from the stage, and survive…your wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded between 1603 and 1868 and shockingly -85% survived!
Next, we made our way through Fushimi Inari Taisha. Well, we only did about a quarter of the trails, as it is a 4 kilometer hike up to the actual shrine, and it was 90 degrees out! We just walked a short loop through the beautiful orange Torii gates. The shrine at the top is dedicated to god of rice, Inari.
These trails were stunning! So vibrant and so unique. This was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. And they didn’t disappoint for providing amazing pictures!
One thing that surprised us about Kyoto, was how vast it was! The city is a lot larger then I realized, and all of the main sights are skirted around the edge of the city, on the foothills. It took quite some time to get from attraction to attraction. And after lunch, we made our way up to the north west side of town to walk through Arashiyama.
The area is so beautiful! It’s right on the foot of the mountains, with a beautiful river flowing through. The Togetsukyō bridge splits the river on either side. West of the bridge it is the Hozu River and east of the bridge it is the Katsura River. It was refreshing to walk along the river and cool off a bit!
AND…Arashiyama has the MOST BEAUTIFUL bamboo forest! We had so much fun wandering through the forest. It was so stunning how the light shines through. Just magical! We were able to find a little area that shockingly didn’t have any other tourists. Words can’t express the beauty of looking up through the lush bright green bamboo. It was a sight and a feeling I’ll remember forever.
The next site we visited was my favourite from the day – Ninna-ji! We were in Kyoto during their most famous, busiest festival of the year. This meant LOTS of people everywhere! But this next place was just a little bit harder to get to, so that meant it was considerably less busy then everywhere else. And by considerably less, I mean we felt like we were alone here! It was perfect.
You have to take your shoes off to enter, which I immediately loved (if you know me, I’m happiest when I’m barefoot :)). We then entered what felt like someone’s home. This was the “homiest” feeling temple. There were a handful of buildings all connected with outdoor bridge/walkways with beautiful gardens intertwined. It was wonderful sitting down on one of the walkways overlooking the zen garden and just relaxing. I absolutely loved the vibes of this place! I wish I had a yoga mat with me, I felt so inspired to flow!
The last temple of the day was by far the craziest! Kinkaku-ji – one of the most popular tourist sites in Japan! The temple is a beautiful gold-leaf coated pavilion. It is situated on the edge of a beautiful pond surrounded by extensive Japanese gardens. The temple casts a magnificent reflection into the pond – again, creating the most perfect photographs! Unfortunately, this place was SO busy, so we quickly snapped a few photos and exited!
On our way back into the city for dinner, we walked down along the river. We noticed there was an area where a lot of locals were sitting on large boulder-like rocks IN the river. We decided we had to partake, so we waded in and relaxed on the big rocks for a bit. It was wonderful to cool down and relax after already walking about 10 miles in 90 degree weather.
For dinner, we wanted to experience a special summer dining tradition in Kyoto known “Yuka”. As it is so hot in the summer, many restaurants construct large wooden platforms that extend out over the river to dine on. We were able to find a delicious Sukiyaki style restaurant (Japanese hot pot). For not having a booking or making any dinner plans, we were pleasantly surprised with how good our meal was!
After dinner, we had just a little bit of time left before our train back to Tokyo. We wandered the main city streets and popped into some fun little shops. Dan and I both agreed that although Kyoto was SUPER busy because of the festival, we were grateful to be there at that time to experience it. During this festival, many of the locals dress in traditional style kimono’s (women) and yukata’s (men). It was really fun seeing them walking around the city. It made us feel like we were really in the “old – Japan”. Kyoto was also a place where if we were lucky, we could potentially spot a Giesha. We both read online that is is a very rare thing, as they are very illusive and only come out in certain parts of the city. Well…after dinner when we were walking around to the shops, we took a back street and AH HA! Out popped a Giesha! And she was so beautiful! She quickly snaked past us and into another door, I think she was outside for about 20 seconds total. I couldn’t believe we had witnessed it though! Amazing! (she was WAY too fast for us to be able to snap a photo unfortunately)
Of course, seeing all of these beautiful kimono’s made me really want one! Lucky for me, Dan is awesome and he got me a gorgeous silk kimono robe! We also got some beautiful chopsticks as souvenirs! After an amazing, long, hot day in Kyoto – we hopped back on the bullet train back to Tokyo! I’d highly recommend a trip to Kyoto if you ever get the chance. This was definitely a trip we’ll remember forever!