f you want to have a feel of Japan in its golden days, then Kyoto is the perfect place to be. It boasts well-preserved temples, beautiful gardens, quiet shrines, traditional houses and charming history. Known as Japan’s most beautiful, this “City of Ten Thousand Shrines” is a must when visiting the land of the rising sun.
Besides the many attractions, Kyoto is also a place of stillness and tranquility. While Tokyo prides on skyscrapers and modernism, Kyoto, on the other hand, is all about its deep anchor in custom and tradition. Thankfully, unlike any other popular destinations, Kyoto maintains its calm and laid-back vibe despite the multitudes of tourists that visit the city.
If you’re visiting on shoulder season, I recommend Kyoto as a based than Osaka because there’s much more to see and do in this region. If you’re visiting on peak season, be prepared to pay skyrocket accommodation prices.
Here’s a photo diary of our time in Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The Bamboo Grove remain as one of the most valued attractions in Kyoto. The long line of the tall canes is neatly aligned, forming a canopy where visitors can walk in through. While it’s beautiful at any time, the grove is particularly extraordinary on days where the light carefully peeps through the tiny voids as the stalks sway in harmony with the blow of the wind.
When we arrived at the grove, the place is already packed with visitors. It was crowded, loud, and was a bit smaller than I had expected. It’s still beautiful but the atmosphere was different. I recommend going early or late in the day.
Okochi Sanso Garden
All the way at the back of the Bamboo Grove, we discovered this villa that houses different gardens and is perfect for a quiet stroll. Okochi Sanso has different spots with gorgeous views and the setting invites for a total zen experience. It was a pleasant surprise since most of the attractions we’ve been to are either small and/or crowded.
There’s a small admission fee of 1000 yen which includes complimentary matcha green tea, sweet biscuit and a postcard.
Arashiyama, which means Storm Mountain, is one of the important sightseeing areas in Kyoto. Both the Bamboo Grove and Okochi Sanso Garden are located here and in addition with these two, the rest of the locale is filled with temples, shrines, picturesque streets and beautiful residences.
We leisurely wandered around the area while munching yummy yakitori and matcha ice cream.
If you’re coming during sakura season, then Philosopher’s Path is one of the best viewing spots in Kyoto. It follows a canal about two kilometers long, lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees. The route has acquired its name from one of Japan’s famous philosophers, Nishida Kitaro, who was said to practice meditation while walking this stretch.
I’d say it’s true. Despite the many people, walking under the blooming sakura trees is soothing as much as it’s stunning.
Yasaka Shrine / Maruyama Park
Our last stop is Yasaka Shrine, simple yet impressive and beautifully adorned with hundreds of lanterns. Its location is seamlessly unified into the rest of Maruyama Park.
Maruyama Park is the center of hanami in Kyoto. Here, there’s always a street food market where you can grab some snacks and enjoy outdoor dining under the cherry trees.
We only had a day to explore Kyoto and if anything, it left us wanting to see more. One day maybe doable, but not ideal especially on high season. The crowd definitely affected how our day went since queues were longer and traffic was slower.
Our first stop at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove was met with an intense crowd as tour buses keep coming! Later on, we figured that it may not be the best time to visit other popular sites like Fushimi Inari Shrine and Gion. We decided to forego a few destinations in our Kyoto itinerary to spend more time in places that we’re able to actually go.
What do you think? Is Kyoto on your bucket list?