An amazing visit to Japan: Kyoto
Kyoto is the most impressive cultural place I’ve ever been to. It used to be the imperial city of Japan, wonderfully rich in culture, colorful trees and landscapes, and the most amazing temples and shrines.
We went to Kyoto from Tokyo using a really fast bullet train, called Shinkansen. Took us just a few hours to arrive at our place. This train is FAST, comfortable and most convenient way to travel across Japan. For tourists planning to ride the Shinkansen, make sure you get yourself a JR Pass. It is a train pass covering a number of days and allows you unlimited travel on any type of Japan Railway trains. Only catch is that you cannot buy it from inside Japan, you have to purchase it before arriving.
We stayed in a traditional Japanese house with sliding wooden doors, called a Ryokan, in the neighborhood of Gion. Gion is the heart of Kyoto, it is the traditional art, entertainment and a historic center-point of the city. As soon as you enter the place you feel like you’ve walked into the past, into an old Japanese movie scene. Not only Kyoto should be on your must-visit places list, you should also make sure you stay inside Gion.
Staying inside Gion you’ll see people in the cultural dresses everywhere. My most favorite photo spot was inside Gion as well, so it was easy to reach and grab a spot for it. This place is called the Yasaka Tower, a traditional Japanese pagoda that can be seen from all across Gion.
It was very difficulty to capture this shot. As opposed to my usual early morning photography, this photo had to be taken in evening. Because the lights appearing on the tower are turned off later in the night so you will miss that if you plan to take it’s photo in the early morning hours. Since it was evening, it was very crowded. I had to take a series of photos and blend their portions together where there is no one walking or sitting or taking selfies with the tower.
Near to Gion there is another beautiful shrine called Kiyomizu-dera. Best time to visit this place is around late afternoon, but before sunset. This place has shrines and pagodas on top of the mountain from where you can see the entire valley of Kyoto from.
We rented kimono dresses for ourselves for a day and roamed around the beautiful city of Kyoto. Next day we went to an amazing place, called the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine.. the thousands of mesmerizing orange gates that run up to the top of the mountain where the shrine is.
I thought this would be my favorite place in Kyoto, but it turns out that a very secluded and difficult-to-reach shrine called Daigo-ji became my favorite place. The quiet, peaceful, and serene place makes you fall in love with it right away.
Lucky for us, the Daigo-ji Shrine turned out to be completely empty. It was just us and another small group there which left few minutes after we arrived. So we had the whole place to ourselves. I recommend you visit during weekdays and during afternoon hours. The place looks fabulous at that time.
This was our last day in Kyoto so we had lots to cover. From Daigo-ji we rushed off to Arashiyama.. the famous bamboo tree forest, a place where thousands of tall bamboo trees are planted that makes it look like a jungle. Unfortunately we didn’t reach there on time and it was already past sunset time, plus it was very crowded.
Had a fantastic time in Kyoto… will definitely visit again in future.