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Eat, Pray, Love: The Things To Do In Kyoto For A Cultural Experience

A short Shinkansen ride away from Tokyo, Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan. A great way to slow down from the bustle of futuristic Tokyo, Kyoto is steeped in tradition and offers you serene Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, breathtaking marvels of nature, geishas scurrying around Gion, and traditional tea houses.

If you are mapping your Kyoto itinerary, here’s what we suggest you do:

Temples and Shrines

Kyoto has over 1500 temples, and it can be a tough task to narrow down on ones that are historically significant and breath-taking in its structure. While you can map your way across the city to cover numerous shrines and temples, often stumbling across them accidentally too, we list a few without which your trip to Kyoto would be incomplete.

Fushimi Inari Taisha
A short train ride away from the city, get an early start if you want to beat the sun and make it to the top of Fushimi Inari. A long trek, the upslope path to the temple atop is lined with endless vermilion torii gates with Japanese scripture. As you ascend and see the city diminishing under you, the panoramic views are breathtaking. It is easily one of the most impressive and surreal experiences in Kyoto.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Kiyomizu-dera
The temple is one of the most popular ones in Kyoto and includes an uphill walk through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama dotted with stalls selling souvenirs and local eatables such as the delicious dango and mochi. Walk through the bustle to reach the temple, that is equally buzzing with people, given its popularity. The main temple is under renovation, but still accessible. Walk around the complex to take in the sights and to enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the top.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Kinkaku-ji
Also known as Golden Pavillion, the name comes from the magnificent gold-leaf coated Zen Buddist temple sitting in the midst of lush greenery. Its glittering golden reflection in the pond before it is an unforgettable sight, and one for the ’gram.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Ryōanji
The Ryōanji temple is Japan’s most famous rock garden. Originally a villa, it’s a Zen temple that attracts hundreds of visitors daily. With an expansive garden with a pond, the temple grounds offer some nice walking trails. Enjoy Yodofu, a local delicacy made with boiled tofu that is served at the garden restaurant that serves food on traditional Japanese style tatami mats.

Sights

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
The forest has endless tall and green bamboo stalks, with sunlight sifting through them to create an ethereal sight every traveller must see. The path leading up to the forest has many small shops where you can stop to have a red bean-filled taiyaki or charcoal and matcha ice-cream. If you are craving a strong brew, head to the % Arabica coffee shop in the vicinity, or grab a bowl of piping ramen at Arashiyama Yoshimura.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka
When making the trek to Kiyomizu Dera and down, wander off to the iconic slopes of Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka in the Higashiyama district. Offering you an unadulterated view of quaint Kyoto, the slopes can be accessed only by foot, and are flanked by traditional wooden tea houses offering Matcha green tea, and Kyoto-style traditional inns. A walk down these slopes will also give you an unfiltered view of the Yasaka Pagoda.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Gion
On the banks of the Kamo-gawa river, Gion is the world-renowned geisha quarter. Here you are likely to catch sight of the elusive Geishas scurrying around. Known for its traditional tea houses, the neighourhood in the heart of Kyoto retains the mystery and allure of old Kyoto. Walk down Ponchoto Alley ensconced between lantern-lit tea houses and enjoy a cup of matcha or a hearty traditional meal. Keep an ear and eye out for the distinct clacking sound of the Geishas’ footsteps.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Nishijin
The city’s weaving district, this is where the intricately woven and vivid fabrics used to craft kimonos and their obi belts come from. A traditional neighbourhood with wooden machiyas, you can treat yourself to a traditional kimono, or visit one of the numerous factories in the area to witness the beautiful robes being woven.

Parks

Japan is famed for its lush foliage, whether it is the pink takeover during summer or beautiful Autumnal rusts and crimson. Kyoto has a multitude of beautiful gardens, most of which are nestled inside temple grounds and can be accessed for meditative strolls and peaceful walks. Our top choice of temples equipped with gorgeous gardens includes Ryōanji Temple, Ginkaku-ji Temple, and Tofuku-ji Temple.

Image Courtesy: UnsplashImage Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: UnsplashImage Courtesy: Unsplash

Castles
An ancient city that is rich in history, Kyoto has magnificent castles that are a must-see, and are accessible to everyone. Visit Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features exquisite interiors with paintings, ornate sliding paper doors, gold leaf-covered rooms, and nightingale floors that use nails to make a chirping noise under pressure. The Kyoto Imperial Palace, on the other hand, was the former residence of the Emperor and the Imperial Family of Japan. The palace grounds are open to the public and feature several beautiful buildings built in the classical Japanese style.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Cherry Blossom Viewing
Kyoto has copious spots where the crowds flock to see sakura when hanami, the season of cherry blossom, begins. You can find the flowers along the river, at gardens surrounding the castles or around shrines and temples. A few spots with incomparable views are the Hirano Shrine, the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, Nijo Castle, Toji Temple, and Marayuma Park.

Featured Image: Unsplash

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