We did not plan our visit to Kyoto very well.
This is why this post is a ‘photo diary’ and not one of my usual travel guides.
First off, we dropped the ball on planning our visit to Kyoto because Tokyo was such a monster for us to wrap our heads around. Plus it was Christmas, year-end and all that other crap that gets in the way in December. Secondly, I didn’t buy a guide book so we just sort of guessed at everything once we got there. Do NOT do this. The jet lag, the language barrier and the rain will just wear you down. Plan that sh*t in advance! In the meantime, here’s a bunch of fun stuff we did:
The Golden Pavilion – This is the most beautiful temple I have ever seen. If you see one thing in Kyoto, make it the Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji. I was lucky to visit in the late afternoon when the sun was just hitting the temple letting it reflect even a bit brighter on the water. It made the $30 taxi ride all worth it.
Hello from Kyoto!
We got a peek at Mount Fuji during our high-speed train ride on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. A first-class ticket one-way to Kyoto is around $170 and will get you there in about 2 hours. We splurged on the upgrade because after spending a week in Tokyo, I just wanted my own breathing space for a little bit.
Our Kyoto Ryokan – A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn or a bed and breakfast type of situation. It is SUPER minimalist and featured futons that we rolled onto the floor for beds and big heavy comforters for snuggling in. First off – I’m paying to sleep on the floor…wha? But sleeping on these futons is ridiculously comfortable and my back did not hurt at all. My only complaint was that the room we had was pretty tiny and since there was no furniture, everything ended up everywhere and was sort of a mess.
So my verdict on staying at a ryokan? Do it once so you can try it out and book something very traditional and maybe even a bit more expensive to get a true, authentic experience. I probably wouldn’t do it again unless I was staying at some sort of ultra-luxurious and authentic ryokan in the Japanese countryside. A traditional Japanese breakfast is usually included or available for a small fee consisting of rice, fish, miso soup and greens.
If you’re looking for a legit awesome ryokan – check ot the book Japanese Inns and Hot Springs for more ideas and where some of the prettiest ones are located.
A walk through a traditional Japanese garden in a light rain
Gorgeous temple in the middle of Kyoto
Nishiki Market – Since it is covered, save Nishiki Market for a rainy day when you can walk through all the food stalls and buy souvenirs. Look for a booth that only sells delicious green tea with roasted brown rice. There’s also lots of street food to try out as well. The market covers about five blocks and closes at 6pm everyday. The market then spills into a bigger shopping mall that is open later.
Well hello there, delicious-ness. After wandering around in the rain, we were due for a snack. I spotted a line-up up the stairs to this cute little dessert bar that specialized in matcha green tea sundaes. The servers poured us hot tea as soon as we arrived and Paul and I devoured the green tea dessert creation you see above. From the bottom up there was jello, ice cream, red bean, rice cake, green tea sponge cake and green tea whipped cream. It was the best $13 sundae of my life and I am sure that nothing will ever come close to topping that again.
Unfortunately the cafe accepted cash only. This is good time to interject on how Japan is not really a debit or credit card friendly place. The subways? Cash only. Most restaurants? They prefer cash. Sure, that’s all fine and good but problem #2? Japan is one of the worst places to find an ATM that accepts credit cards from North America for a cash advance. Let’s just put it this way – we hit 11 different bank machines and it was the 11th one that finally accepted one of our cards. So lesson learned.
Paul made a little friend – and then he ate him.
Another temple hidden away in a strip mall in Kyoto – they are everywhere.
For more info, I wrote another post about Kyoto and my trip to Arashiyama and into a Bamboo Forest.
I also wrote a Travel Guide to Tokyo here.
While you’re there, you should also go to the Robot Restaurant.
You should rent a Pocket Wi-Fi device so you don’t run up huge roaming fees.
A couple more photos from Tokyo.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments!