Kyoto Journey Information—25 Issues to Do in Japan’s Historic Metropolis

Because the bullet prepare started to gradual, the automated voice over the speaker introduced (first in Japanese after which in English) that we ought to be able to deboard—the prepare can be stopped for 1 minute, and solely 1 minute. We shortly gathered our issues, scurried out of the prepare station and stepped into Kyoto, a metropolis that’s been on my bucket listing for a decade. As anticipated, it turned out to be an expertise not like every other.

Kyoto’s character is unimaginable to sum up in a paragraph, however right here are some things that make it such a particular place. First, because the outdated capital of Japan, Kyoto was the middle of arts, so in the present day it’s brimming with the nation’s richest cultural traditions, from the Japanese tea ceremony to the artwork of flower arranging. Town’s historical past spans greater than 1,200 years, and its delicacies, craftsmanship, and plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Websites have vastly influenced the nation as a complete.

But this sense of historic historical past is balanced by a modernity—not solely is Kyoto an extremely artistic metropolis, it possesses an orderliness that feels gentle years forward of the US. Exhibit A: the prepare station bathrooms’ high-tech performance that saved them glowing clear—and even performed nature sound results if I so desired.

I’ve solely scratched the floor of experiencing Kyoto’s many layers, and I’ve little question that every time I return, I’ll perceive it in a deeper means. However by way of the months of planning our journey, I dove headfirst into analysis and got here away with so many suggestions from trusted mates, I needed to share the journey information that I created for our group to expertise Kyoto for the primary time. Learn on for what to do to expertise Kyoto to its fullest.

What to learn about Kyoto

For those who’re dreaming of a journey to Japan that’s steeped in historical past, tradition, and pure magnificence, then Kyoto ought to be on the prime of your listing. Suppose historic temples, gorgeous gardens, and wealthy traditions round each nook. Listed below are just a few fundamentals you must know if you happen to’re planning a visit:

  1. Respect Native Customs: Kyoto is deeply rooted in custom, so it’s important to be respectful. Bowing is a typical greeting, and bear in mind to take off your sneakers earlier than getting into somebody’s house or a temple.
  2. Gown Modestly: When visiting temples and shrines, gown modestly by masking your shoulders and knees. This exhibits respect for the sacred locations you’re exploring.
  3. Money is King: Whereas bank cards are accepted at main resorts and a few eating places, it’s clever to hold money, as many smaller retailers and conventional institutions want it.
  4. Plan in Advance: Kyoto has unimaginable eating places and nice resorts, from conventional ryokans to fashionable resorts. Nonetheless, particularly throughout peak season, it’s important to make reservations effectively prematurely. There have been a handful of eating places I needed to strive that we weren’t in a position to get into attributable to restricted seating.
  5. Don’t Rush: Take your time to soak within the tradition and tranquility of Kyoto. Dashing from one attraction to a different can result in lacking the true essence of this charming metropolis, and plenty of of our greatest experiences got here from simply wandering round and discovering retailers and cafés as we explored.

When to go to Kyoto

  1. Spring (March to Could): That is the enduring cherry blossom season in Kyoto. Simply bear in mind that it is a busy time for vacationers, so e-book your lodging effectively prematurely.
  2. Summer season (June to August): Summers in Kyoto are may be scorching and humid. Whereas it’s the off-peak season for vacationers, there’s a increased risk of rain throughout this time.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Arguably probably the most lovely time to go to Kyoto, autumn brings breathtaking foliage that creates a shocking backdrop for images.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winters in Kyoto are comparatively delicate, and you’ll get pleasure from fewer crowds and decrease costs. I’d like to expertise the sunshine shows throughout the vacation season!

The right way to get to Kyoto

To get to Kyoto, the closest airport to fly into is Kansai Worldwide Airport (KIX). KIX is well-connected to main worldwide locations and is only a prepare journey away from Kyoto. An alternative choice is Osaka Worldwide Airport (ITM), which is nearer to Kyoto however serves largely home flights.

Since we have been flying in from the US, we determined to take a direct flight from Los Angeles Worldwide Airport (LAX) to Haneda Worldwide Airport in Tokyo (HND), then we hopped on the bullet prepare and went straight to Kyoto.

When you land, the Haruka Specific from KIX, the Restricted Specific from ITM or the Bullet Practice from Tokyo will conveniently transport you to Kyoto Station. The prepare journey is an incredible a part of the journey, providing scenic views of Japan’s countryside.

The place to remain: Greatest Kyoto Lodges

Kyoto has nice choices in terms of resorts, from conventional ryokans to fashionable resorts. Nonetheless, particularly throughout peak season, it’s important to make reservations effectively prematurely as they get booked up shortly.

This was our house base for the primary leg of our keep, and I can’t think about a extra heat and welcoming place to expertise Kyoto for the primary time. Its glossy and fashionable inside is juxtaposed by the gorgeous nature surrounding you, due to the ground to ceiling home windows that deliver the outside in. The 800-year-old Shakusui-en pond backyard is arguably the focus of the lodge—strolling throughout it surrounded by cherry blossoms, Japanese maples, and weeping willows was the cortisol-lowering expertise I wanted to sink into the Kyoto expertise. Don’t miss the unimaginable breakfast served within the restaurant every morning. The one arduous half is deciding between the Japanese breakfast or the extremely scrumptious pastries.

For the ultimate two days of our journey, we relocated to Hoshinoya, in Arashiyama which is on the western outskirts of Kyoto. You entry the lodge through a ship that takes you alongside the Oi River—and the 15-minute journey really transports you to a different, extra soothing and peaceable world. Surrounded by forest-covered hills, you’re taken to a wooden visitor pavilions designed in a sublime and conventional Japanese model. Contemporary slippers and a linen lounge set await you, and as you step onto the freshly laid tatami matting, you already know you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime expertise. Throughout our two days at Hoshinoya, we participated in probably the most inspiring incense ceremony, dined on conventional Japanese delicacies, relaxed and ate breakfast overlooking the river, and explored the close by temple and bamboo forests. Your entire expertise reawakened my senses to the great thing about nature and slowing down.

On the whole different finish of the spectrum is the brand new Ace Resort. It’s buzzy, it’s fashionable, and it’s an excellent worth in a metropolis the place it’s a bit tougher to discover a decently priced room that also boasts consolation and luxurious. It additionally provides a break from Japanese meals, in case taco cravings strike (responsible!) With 3 eating places, a rooftop bar, and a Stumptown espresso, the Ace seems like a style of Brooklyn set proper within the middle of Kyoto.

The place to eat: Greatest Kyoto Eating places

Kyoto is broadly recognized to be an extremely meals metropolis. Nonetheless, I didn’t absolutely perceive the meals scene till I skilled it firsthand, so I feel that on a return journey, I’ll really feel far more assured in figuring out the place to go. My greatest tip is to e-book reservations as far prematurely as doable! Most of the eating places are small, and so they e-book up effectively prematurely. Beneath are the very best eating places the place we ate in Kyoto, plus just a few that got here extremely really helpful that I didn’t get to expertise on this journey.

Tempura Matsu: This celebrated tempura restaurant is situated within the Arashiyama district in west Kyoto. It serves conventional Japanese delicacies in programs and is broadly thought to serve the very best tempura in Kyoto.

OMEN: Our first cease once we obtained to Kyoto, OMEN is a tiny spot with the very best udon noodles of my life.

Monk: My greatest remorse was not scoring a reservation at Monk, which is extremely in style ever because the chef, Yoshihiro Imai’s look on Chef’s Desk. Monk is a fourteen-seat, omakase-style menu restaurant set on the Thinker’s Path that focuses on pizza. Subsequent time.

Hitomi: a preferred yakitori spot with scrumptious meals and enjoyable vibes—e-book forward.

Sushi Matsumoto: We needed to expertise a standard omakase sushi meal on our first night time, and Sushi Matsumoto definitely delivered. Each chew was scrumptious, and I truly misplaced monitor of what number of programs had been served. Subsequent time, I would schedule this once we weren’t hit so arduous by jetlag to completely admire the great thing about every course.

Censi: A Japanese menu with Italian affect, it is a heat and welcoming spot that made it on Asia’s 50 Greatest Eating places listing.

Mama Arashiyama: Adam and I spent our final night time in Kyoto at this lovely Italian restaurant in Arashiyama. We beloved the way in which they blended a Japanese strategy into our pasta and pizza-filled dinner. A terrific spot to go in order for you elevated meals in relaxed, informal environment.

Stardust: a vegan café that I heard SO many raves about, however that occurred to be closed whereas we have been there.

Tan: I actually needed to go to this farm-to-table restaurant, however sadly they have been booked up. Extremely really helpful from trusted mates.

Cafés and coffeeshops

Bread & Espresso & Arashiyama: the right spot to cease for espresso and a pastry or sandwich if you happen to’re in Arashiyama.

Tsujiri Tea Home: a inexperienced tea retailer that’s additionally well-known for his or her matcha ice cream and desserts.

Kishin Kissa – probably the most aesthetic espresso store with a small however scrumptious menu of snacks, sweets, and matcha.

Me Me Me Espresso Home: Go for breakfast, strive the donuts.

What to do in Kyoto: the sights

Discover historic Kyoto

Ninnenzaka and Sannenzaka Streets are stuffed with quaint retailers to discover. Put in your most comfy sneakers and go up the hills of the Higashiyama District. Alongside the way in which, see the Kiyomizu Temple at prime of hill, and the Kodaiji Temple with lovely structure and zen gardens

Go to the temples

Rokuon-Ji Temple (Golden Pavillion): This breathtaking golden pavilion is a should see.

Daitokuji Temple: There are 22 sub-temples inside this monastery advanced however solely 4 sub-temples are seen to the general public.

Ryoanji Temple: This temple has probably the most well-known rock backyard in Kyoto.


Our time in Arashiyama was undoubtedly one in all my favourite elements of our whole journey. For those who’re not staying right here, dedicate a full day to see some superb fall foliage (or cherry blossoming) and see the next:

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  • The Iwatayama Monkey Park on the slopes of Arashiyama. Over 170 monkeys reside on the park. Whereas the monkeys are wild, they’ve turn into accustomed to people. The park is on a small mountain not removed from the Saga-Arashiyama rail station. Guests can strategy and {photograph} the monkeys. On the summit is a fenced enclosure the place guests can feed the monkeys.
  • The “Moon Crossing Bridge” (Togetsukyo, notable for its views of cherry blossoms and autumn colours on the slopes of Arashiyama.

Buying in Kyoto

Kyoto is legendary for its craftsmanship, so take a while to peruse Chawanzaka Road (aka teapot lane) stuffed with conventional pottery retailers sloping down from the Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

POJ Studio is my favourite store in Kyoto. From the ceramics to the incense to the DIY Kintsugi kits, I needed to deliver every little thing house with me. Fortunately, they ship to the US (and I ordered one in all their woven tapestries for our front room wall.)

Go to Nishiki Market

Essentially the most well-known meals market in Kyoto, Nishiki Market is unquestionably value a go to. Stroll by way of the seemingly infinite stalls to see and style belongings you’ve by no means seen earlier than. Search for Inexperienced tea mochi, sashimi skewers, and some issues that may make your abdomen flip (ie the grilled sparrow.) We beloved the mushy serve with manuka honey.

Stroll down Thinker’s Path

This can be a attractive stone path alongside a canal, lined with bushes and cute retailers and eating places. The trail takes its title from the twentieth century philosophy professor Nishida Kitaro, who walked alongside the trail each day whereas meditating on the issues concerned in reconciling Japanese and Western faculties of thought. On a future journey, I’d spend much more time strolling right here, absorbing the wonder and visiting spots alongside the way in which.

Get dinner or drinks in Pontocho Alley

Historic and energetic at night time, lined with nice hole-in-the-wall bars. Take a stroll throughout the banks of Kamogawa River round sundown in your means.