Kyoto wasn’t quite what I had expected it to be.
Admittedly, part of it had to do with the fact that, right after new year, everything is closed in Japan for a few days. We were just unlucky.
The other part had to do with the fact that I had unrealistic expectations, and the reality didn’t quite live up to them. As the former capital of Japan, I’d grown up hearing about all the ancient temples and shrines there, and how it was so steeped in ancient culture and architecture. That’s definitely still true, there are temples and shrines absolutely everywhere.
That’s not, however, quite what you see when you come out of the station, and on the whole Kyoto isn’t the most beautiful city I’ve been to. The unfortunate timing of our trip also meant that all the restaurants that were recommended to us – all fifteen – were closed. So we probably didn’t experience the best food that Kyoto had to offer, either.
Looking back on our trip, we did have a lovely time there, despite our initial frustrations. For one thing, it’s a fantastic city to cycle in. You’re allowed to cycle on the pavements, which are large enough for several bikes, and the drivers there really respect cyclists, so you feel safe on the road, too. It was really fun going from temple to temple, and exploring the city on two wheels (thanks, AirBnB rental!)
We also saw some stunning sights – I’ve listed some of my favourites below.
We headed toward Gion to see the famous Yasaka Shrine, and check out the nightlife. Gion is the famous geisha district, so you’ll find a lot of tourists there, but there’s lots to see and do – you can get some great coffee around there, too.
Kinkakuji temple was one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen in the entire world – it just looked like something out of a painting. It was stunning. I was in total awe, and the surrounding gardens were also idyllic.
A top tip for tourists – if you don’t want sleep deprived, hungry and grumpy half-Japanese ladies to scream and chase after you in near hysterics, it’s best to avoid dumping several unwanted receipts from your bag in front of something as beautiful as this. Some people are just unbelievable. Unfortunately the tourists in question sheepishly ran away, meaning I had to carry around other people’s trash for a while. I also shot daggers at the people in question, so I hope I ruined their tour by being totally insane. However, I still have no remorse about my behaviour that day. NO REGRETS.
Luckily, matcha tea and a traditional Japanese sweet was the perfect way to blow off all that pent up, trash-related anger – it was really peaceful and tranquil in the shade.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates – thousands and thousands of bright orange structures, which line the mountain trails.
It’s very impressive, and it has a great atmosphere – unsurprisingly, it’s a lot nicer the further up you go, as the other tourists drop off earlier once they’ve taken their selfies.
Just walk a little further up to get a better view (and you can take yours up there, too).
There are also some great street food vendors just outside, too – I recommend the chicken skewers and the fish-shaped cakes with custard cream filling in particular. Absolutely delicious!
While our trip didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I did think there were some stunning sights to see in Kyoto.
Have you ever been to Kyoto? What did you think? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!