I went to three different cities in Japan, and of course you might guess easily since these three place are the usual spots for tourists to stay and roam around. KYOTO, OSAKA and TOKYO. Among these three cities, I fell in love most in Kyoto ❤
Kyoto is one of the famous cities in Japan. Being the ancient and imperial capital of the country before, it boosts the historic and cultural representation of Japan. Many Buddhist and Shinto temples were built in this city. I just learned from my research that Kyoto was spared from the list of the cities targeted for atomic bomb during world war II due to its historic value.
I traveled alone to Japan, for self-discovery and actually, because all my friends ditched me (haha! kidding). I arrived at Osaka International Airport, claimed my ICOCA card and rode the one-way Haruka train to Kyoto. I learned about the Haruka from my friend as well as the ICOCA card for metro railways, subways and buses in Kansai region. You can use this card as well as in different prefectures as long as it is compatible. ICOCA is as good as SUICA card from Tokyo 🙂 check here for more info: HARUKA & ICOCA.
SOLO-TRAVELLING in Japan was fun, and I loved it. The overall experience, from the daytime and late night walks to the early morning struggles to wake up in order to see the beautiful spots of this city. From the bus rides and confusing trains and timings to the convenience store escapades for my late night snacking (onigiri!!). I always go for DIY itinerary, but, Kyoto was the first intensive plan that I made from all my previous trips. Mainly because I want to make sure I visit all the places I wanted to see, and fortunately, I did see them all!
I arrived around 8pm in Kyoto, and since I forgot what bus to take to my hostel, I decided to walk. It was a 20-min walk, alone with my luggage being strolled yet I feel safe and sound on the alleys of Kyoto. There I found my beautiful Ryokan hostel, Haruya Hostel Terrace and was greeted with smile by the receptionists. Japanese ladies are so courteous, and conservative that I was shy for a bit because they were too respectful^^ The guesthouse is a 150 year-old building so the walls are really thin and you can hear people walking and talking if its too loud. I don’t have problem with noises so it was a perfect hostel for me, and even if the dorm room area was small, it will give you enough privacy on your beds. People who stayed during that time were also considerate enough for others needs especially after 10pm.
Haruya Hostel terrace is only 5 min walking distance to Kyoto Aquarium. I did not visit it as it is not included in my itinerary. I just strolled at the park nearby during my first night.
My direction for my first day was from north west to northern and south Higashiyama, while on my second day I was set to explore the south east of Kyoto before going to Osaka. On my first day alone, it took me ~44000 steps based on my iphone, so who loves to walk? ME!^^ I could’ve rented a bicycle but maybe next time 🙂
This was my two full-day itinerary for Kyoto:
- Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
First stop: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. I went to Kyoto Station around 7 am and reached the forest around 8 am. No big crowds yet, and I still had the time to snap my photos and oh, this place is really lovely!
There are a lot of temples around Arashiyama, one of it is the Daikaku-ji temple and the other is Tenryu-ji temple. I didn’t manage to go to the latter because of the huge crowd in front of it so I decided to skip it.
- Daikaku-ji Temple
One of the most picturesque and oldest temples in Kyoto. This temple was built during the early Heian period. The official name of this temple is Kyu Saga Gosho Daikaku-ji Monzeki. It has also a beautiful pond beside it which truly brings you back to nature.
After exploring Daikakuji, I searched for the smaller temple included on the ticket. After going around, I finally found it!
- Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavillion)
This place is a shariden, a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha. The pavillion is actually part of the Zen Buddhist temple formerly known as Rokuon-ji Temple. This is where I bought my amulets. Good souvenir for friends and family. It was a little crowded when I arrived, but I still managed to get that picture perfect shot.
There’s an interesting story for this written oracle. Would you believed that I got the same luck in Asakusa Temple in Tokyo? Funny, a little creepy but, kind of real. Whatever was written on the oracles, I still believe that there will be a right time for everything. But, was it really a mere coincidence? 🙂
- Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavillion)
Another Zen Buddhist temple, established in 1482 by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth Muromachi Shogunate. The place was peaceful even if there was a crowd. I had the best view of Kyoto from here.
- Tetsugaku no Michi or Path of Philosophy
My favorite place in Kyoto. After roaming around the Ginkaku-ji, I know I will stumble upon this place. Along side the canal, was the beautiful Path of Philosophy. This path runs from Ginkaku-ji to Eikan-do temple (North to South Higashiyama). I walked for about two hours, and it could have been nicer if the cherry blossoms were fully bloomed at the time, but no. I was still blessed and happy to see this place though. It refreshed my mind and gave me solitary moments to ponder about life. Sounds cheesy? I liked it though, it gives me peace and eases my longing for a company. Sometimes you need to be alone to truly know yourself deeper and engage yourself to the utmost possibilities in life.
- Gion, Maruyama Park, Kiyomizu-dera
Gion: I only passed by Gion because I am going to Kiyomizu-dera. The night scene was epic but it was also nice to go there at day time. I went again the next day while looking for the best spot that my friend told me about.
Maruyama Park: I had my best dinner here, under the unbosomed Sakura trees. It was still nice, a mug of cold beer, a bowl of tofu udon, and yakitori. I think it was the most expensive meal I had but I don’t care. It was the best!
I didn’t managed to see that famous terrace though since I arrived late. I just enjoyed strolling around Maruyama Park and taking pictures of people (i did quite enjoy people-watching there!)
- Fushimi Inari Taisha
Like what I did on my first day, I got up quite early to escape the bustling crowds and I got rewarded for it. It was a very peaceful morning hike up to the shrine where the torii gates lead the pathway. I also saw the Senbon Torii gates (thousand of torii gates) which is located on the grounds before hiking up. It was really a surreal experience, walking along those dense, parallel gates.
- To-ji Temple
It was raining so hard when I went to Toji Temple. With my umbrella on, I explored the halls and Pagoda of this temple. I stayed inside the halls for quite some time, admiring the statues of Buddha and reading my pamphlets. I cannot take a picture since it was forbidden, but sometimes, it’s really best to keep it that way. Some of the beautiful memories cannot be captured^^
I went back to Gion since I don’t have anything else to do. I did not go back to Kiyomizu-dera though cos I don’t have enough budget to go inside and so that I still have an excuse to be back :)) Anyway, I’ve been looking around for that beautiful spot that my friend told me about and miraculously, despite the rain and the crowd, I managed to find it.
TIPS in KYOTO:
- Buy the one day or two day passes for bus rides in Kyoto station. It will give you a discount as well for the entrance fees of each temple. Almost all temples have entrance fees, and it was actually worth it. They have maintained the places neatly and you can really feel the historic ambiance once you’re inside. Take note that a normal bus fare in Kyoto is around 250yen per ride, you can save a lot with a 500 Yen 1-day bus pass!
- Lockers, if you only have a short time in Kyoto and you need to check out early, you can always get lockers from Kyoto Station, provided that you will go early. It will cost you less and saves time since you don’t need to go back to your hostel to get your luggage.
- Eat up, there are lots of good places in Kyoto and even in sidewalks, be curious enough to try each of them. Japan is known for its sanitary implementations so all the food you find there are safe to eat.
- Go for cycling, enjoy the day by roaming around with a bike since Japan encourages bikers and they even have bike trails.
- If you’re going for spring, make sure you don’t follow the forecast too much. I arrived a week early, too bad.
- Book your hostels/airbnbs in advance. If you know you’re going for these seasons: spring and autumn, better be prepared and book beforehand, else it will really be expensive, like what happened to me:D
I’ve read from tripadvisor that one day bus pass can be purchased at subway station counter, convenience stores with the Japanese notice in front of the shop and tourist Information Center in Kyoto Station.
Do those things that I’ve mentioned above and you’ll sure to have a good stay. I didn’t do those as I realized it quite too late, except for #3. I did eat a lot 😀 and since my Japan trip was not really decided early on, I had a few mishaps. Nevertheless, it was one of the best places I’ve visited and I will be back next time!
PS: While I was walking in the Path of Philosophy, I found one of the quietest spots in Kyoto, the Honen-in temple. It was free but, still properly maintained. I had a great time exploring and walking around Kyoto. See this link for more details: Path of Philosophy.
For more details, visit the Japan-guide.com. They have a lot of itineraries, mostly DIY and information about the places to visit all around the country. I based my itinerary from this website and also from InsideKyoto.com!