After a lovely day exploring Osaka, on 10th December 2017, we headed for our second destination and our home for the next five nights, Kyoto. Kyoto is seen as the spiritual heart of Japan and is even where Japanese people from other areas would come to learn about their culture. Kyoto has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than 1600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shintō shrines meaning there was an awful lot to see and we would never have a chance of seeing it all.
We got the subway and then a train from Osaka to Kyoto which took us around an hour and only cost around 700¥ which is roughly £4.50! Once we got to our hostel, we dumped our bags and headed straight out to start exploring as there was so much to see. Kyoto seemed to be warmer than Osaka had been and so we didn’t need to wear as many layers which was nice and we hoped it would stay that way during the rest of our time in Japan.
Our first stop of the day. The courtyard of this temple was vast and it needed to be to accommodate the sheer size of the place! It had been burnt down a number of times over the centuries due to wars and natural disasters but was rebuilt each time to the same grandeur. I had never expected the temple to be as big as it was and it definitely made a good impression as our first temple in Kyoto.
We really liked it here as some places were giving out free samples so we got to try a few Japanese snacks as well as Sake (Japanese alcoholic beverage) and a really nice honey tea which me and Niall would have drank a full bath of if we had had the chance! It was a Sunday so was packed when we were there which was actually nice to add to the atmosphere of the place and it was where a lot of people went to get their dried goods, pickles (a big thing in Japan) and also to pick up some street food to eat on the go. If this had been our last stop before coming home then I imagine we would have found plenty here to bring home as souvenirs.
Kyoto Imperial Palace Park
We decided to only visit the palace park instead of the palaces themselves as we had heard the park was the better of the two and the palaces cost money to get in. The park is enormous and looked really nice with the reds and oranges of the last of the autumn leaves as well as the grand palace walls that you could walk around. There was also a lot of people playing baseball here which was good to watch and not something I had expected to see. Japan is one of the few countries outside of America that plays baseball and we didn’t expect to see anyone playing it whilst we were here but the field of the park was full of different aged teams practising.
It was really nice to walk along the river and enjoy the views of the mountains that surround Kyoto. There are also giant stepping stones you can walk across, some in the shape of turtles. Either side has a path so it’s a lot more of a scenic route than walking along a road.
Shimogamo-jinja (tadasu no-mori)
This was a really pretty temple with lots of the iconic deep orange gates and temples. The added colour mixed with the reds and oranges of the surrounding trees added to the beauty of the place and there was quite a bit to see here.
We went here in the evening as this narrow street is filled with lanterns from the various restaurants that are located along it. I imagine it looks like a standard street in daylight but at night this street was glowing in the lantern light giving it an aura of peace as you walked down it.
On our way back to the hostel, through the main downtown area where all the shops are, we passed a puppy shop which was one of the cutest shops I’ve ever been in. You weren’t allowed to take photos but they had loads of really fluffy, tiny puppies (and some kittens) for sale that you could look at from behind windows – I wanted them all! We got lunch at a cheap place down the road from the hostel. Mine was seafood tempura in a noodle soup and Niall’s was egg and chicken with rice which is called Oyakodon which literally translates to mean “parent and child donburi”.
Our first day in Kyoto had been great. We had seen some really grand Japanese temples and the ones we had chosen weren’t even the main attractions in Kyoto so we were looking forward to the next few days and being able to look around some more of the many temples this city has.
Sending Love x