Ahh Kyoto… The cultural capital of Japan. Around every corner there’s a temple or a shrine, or some other ancient sight to see. It’s also where you’ll get real embarrassed to be a tourist.
When you’re in Japan, you have to go to Kyoto. In fact, travelling to Japan and not going to Kyoto is the same as travelling to Italy and not going to Rome. Or going to Sydney and not seeing the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
As we said, it’s the cultural capital of Japan, and everywhere you go, there is some ancient sight to see. As we live in Osaka, Kyoto is a short train ride away, and we’d recommend taking the Hankyu line over JR every time. The Hankyu line takes you to Kawaramachi station, which is basically in the middle of the action; few minutes walk from Gion, and also right next to the Nishiki markets. Hankyu Umeda to Kawaramachi is around ¥400.
For this trip to Kyoto we had a couple sights we wanted to visit. First on the list was Gion, which we would visit on our way to Maruyama park where we would have a beer and some snacks.
The weather was pretty nice for our trip. A thin layer of cloud made it perfect for photography, but it was also very hot and humid this day, which made it pretty tiring walking around.
Walking through Gion was nice, but to be completely honest, it was too crowded to really enjoy the atmosphere there. And almost impossible to get any good photos. It being May, at the end of the peak tourist season, didn’t help us. But also, spring time in Japan is excursion time for the school students. So there were a lot of school children around as well.
After we had finished our lunch we started walking towards our second sight, Ninenzaka! Described as being a “quaint region with traditional homes” it sounded perfect for some relaxing photo ops.
But on our way there we came across many interesting (to us anyway) sights. One of which was Daiunin Temple, main gate pictured above.
It’s actually a fairly recent and modern temple compared to most in Kyoto, which probably is the reason why we didn’t see many other tourists there. It was a very peaceful affair walking through the courtyard and taking it all in.
From Daiunin Temple we walked along Nene-no-Michi, a narrow street leading towards Ninenzaka. Along this street we found some beautiful alley ways, doorways and we even came across the infamous beer vending machine! Score!
As we got closer to Ninenzaka it was obvious that the “quaint region with traditional homes” was a lie! Well, perhaps it was our own fault, thinking quaint means it won’t be a tourist hot spot.
But still, the street and houses were really beautiful. Lots of traditional architecture and cute little shops selling traditional Japanese sweets. Of course there were a lot of souvenir shops as well, which came in handy as we were also on a mission to find some things to bring to Norway!
It’s such a fun experience to walk down a narrow little street and seeing this massive temple or pagoda towering in the distance.
After Ninenzaka it was time for the main event, Kiyomizu-dera! Arguably the most visited and photographed temple in all of Kyoto. It’s an icon in itself. When we were visiting there were some scheduled renovations happening. Apparently there will be many stages of renovation, lasting until March 2020.
Honestly though, it didn’t really spoil it for us. The renovations were only affecting the main hall when we were visiting, and since Kiyomizu-dera consists of 15 buildings, there was plenty to see.
But the one thing that did spoil things a little was how crowded it was. Actually, the fact that it was crowded was not the issue; people being rude, impatient and completely oblivious to their surroundings was.
It comes with the territory. We all want to take pictures/selfies/videos of the same view/sight/spot. Let’s rather be patient and give each other the opportunity to do so, rather than push in, cut in line or otherwise just be an asshat. It’s not difficult.
Sights and destinations that are less accessible seem to have much nicer tourists it seems. But let’s move on.
After Kiyomizu-dera we decided we should head back to Kawaramachi and find somewhere to have some late lunch. We ended up going to the Nishiki markets and buying a bucketload of souvenirs… Mum and Dad, I hope you enjoy what we’re bringing you!
Before we got there though we walked through the Kennin-ji temple complex. Kennin-ji temple is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.
The garden surrounding the temple is very quiet and lovely place to walk through. A stark contrast to Kiyomizu-dera.
Kyoto is a really great place to visit. More than a couple days are in order to really feel like you’ve seen it all, but even then you probably end up missing out on things. If you can avoid visiting during the peak tourist season you’ll have a more enjoyable experience, but it’s Kyoto, so there will always be tourists visiting.