Welcome to Kyoto,
Home of Traditional Japan!
During my three days stay in Osaka, I tried exploring one of its neighboring city in one day, which is Kyoto.
* You can read my article about Osaka entitled ‘The Wanderess: Solo Backpacking in Osaka’.
Kyoto (京都市) is located in the Kansai Region which is populated by almost 1.5 million people, making the city as the 7th largest in Japan. If you will also recall Asian history, it was once the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun. This city has a big part in Japan’s history and was spared from raids during the World War II.
Let’s see what I found in their city in one day…
As I mentioned during my earlier post about Osaka, I scheduled my trip to Kyoto during the second day. I woke up early, eating breakfast on the subway! Another first. (I am too shy to eat alone in public.) If you are coming from Osaka, you can easily ride a train and reach the city in an hour.
I was coming from Tengachaya Station via Sakaisuji Line Subway, upon reaching Awaji Station, I had to transfer railway line which is Hankyu Kyoto Line. Travel time via subway took me an hour and 30 minutes for ¥680.
Alternatively, if you are coming directly from Osaka Station, simply use the JR Line, look for the green train icon, this is one of the private railway company in Japan. It will only take less than an hour for you to reach Kyoto Station for only ¥560 (one way).
Once you reach Kyoto Station, do not forget to purchase your one day pass in the city. For ¥1200, you can travel around the city using subways and city buses. It includes a map and guide so you can plan or choose where to go.
PS. You can also choose bus only pass or subway only pass, definitely for a cheaper price.
Before I start my tour, I took a moment to sit down and sip some tea…
One of the major specialties of this city is their green tea or what they call ‘matcha’. It is the first place in Japan that planted tea seeds, making it the origin of traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Its taste is very rich and intense, I was able to easily differentiate it from the other matcha I tasted in Tokyo.
One of the major works of Hiroshi Hara is the second’s largest station in Japan (after Nagoya Station) opened in 1997 with 238,000 square meters under 15-story roof. It is Kyoto’s main transportation hub that has a contrasting design to many foreign tourist’s sites in the city. Very futuristic and spacious. You can find shopping malls (Cube Shopping Mall, Isetan, Porta Underground Shopping Mall), hotels, movie theater, bus stations, luggage storage/coin lockers and vast dining options.
If you need assistance, visit their general Tourist Information located at the 2nd floor, they have multilingual officers, brochures in English and computers for tourists usage. I know you’re waiting for this, FREE – WiFi.
If you are sending postcards, Kyoto’s Post Office is outside the train station (Karasuma Gate).
I must say that you can do a lot of things in this station, they have Observatory Deck and Skyway at 11th floor. I took my time to explore the station and here’s what I found…
This tower at 131 meters high is one of the iconic landmark in the city located in front of the station. (Karasuma Gate) The tower stands atop the 9-story building which houses the Kyoto Tower Hotel.
FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE
Kyoto is also known as the City of Ten Thousand Shrines, which includes all shrines and torii in Fushimi Inari Shrine. Located just outside JR Inari Station, second station from Kyoto Station for ¥140, one way. (Did I just write ‘station’ three times in one sentence? Lol. 😄)
Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) is famous for its thousands torii gates and considered as important shrine in Southern Kyoto. Inari is the Shinto God of Rice. Along the shrine, you will see a lot of fox statues, they believed that foxes are the messengers of Inari.
This torii was donated in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the famous leader I mentioned from Osaka Castle. 🏯
You can purchase a small torii for ¥800 and write your personal wishes/prayers and hang it at the base of the shrine. On the other hand, you can also draw on these fox-shaped wooden structures and write your wishes.
The top of Mount Inari doesn’t show skyscrapers of Kyoto, mostly small establishments, apartments, schools, parks and highways.
On my way down, I took some refreshments and I met an artist…
Khatie, as promised I bought one for you! 👌
It was made of rice flour and I was full the whole afternoon , you won’t see me posting another food on this trip.Yeah, that’s the only food I ate. 😊
Personally, I consider this place, Fushimi Inari Shrine, as one of the best and must-see in Kyoto, aside from the fact that it has FREE entrance, you can really appreciate and visualize Japanese culture and traditions.
I stayed here for two hours, enjoying the very colorful shrines and torii gates, climbing up the mountain, checking for souvenirs (magnets in particular) and chitchatting with Japanese wearing kimono. I wanted to stay longer but I still have to check some other places…
Hop on 🚌
In Kyoto, transferring from one tourist spot to another is quite confusing and tiring. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR MAP, CHECK THE BUS NUMBER AND ROUTE. From my experience, tourist spots are closer to bus stops so I often use the bus during my trip. But you still need to do A LOT OF WALKING.
From Kyoto Station, ride the bus number 100, 206 or 208 and get off Hakubutsukan-Sanjusangendo-mae bus stop.
Sanjusangendo (三十三間堂) is a famous temple made from 120 meters Japan’s longest wooden structure located in Eastern Kyoto. It is well known for housing a 1001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. There are thousand life sized armed Kannon guarding the 11 feet tall seated Senju Kannon (at the center) with 11 faces and 1000 arms and has been designated as a National Treasure.
My trip to this temple was very exciting and unique, strictly no slippers and no picture taking allowed inside the hall. Be responsible and discipline enough to follow. It was not my plan to go here, but it was great to know, see and read stories of Japanese beliefs (Buddhism).
Originally, entrance fee was ¥600, however with the one day pass I got in for ¥500. Not bad. 👌
From Sanjusangendo, ride the bus 100 or 206. Get off at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop. From there, it will be an uphill walk to the temple.
One of the famous temple in Japan and considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994. It is known for its wooden structure stage, 13 meters above the hillside, which will let you view numerous maple and cherry trees. You can explore and look around the temple for ¥300.
Please be advised that some of the buildings in this area is under renovation. The construction has few but not overwhelming impact on your visit.
A niōmon is a Japanese name of a Buddhist temple gate guarded by two wooden warriors called Niō (Two Kings).
Here’s a map so you can visualize how big the place is…
I’m a traveler who’s not only after pictures, I grab the chance of knowing the history and culture of the country I am into. An hour or two is not enough for this place. Prepare a lot energy because, personally for me, Kyoto is synonymous to A LOT OF WALKING.
You will see a lot of Japanese men and women wearing their kimonos while roaming around the city! So much effort and love for their tradition!
Higashiyama District can be found along the slower slopes of the eastern mountains. You can definitely feel the vibe of traditional old Kyoto. The narrow lanes comprises of small shops selling souvenirs and Japanese specialties for take home. If you get tired from walking along Kiyomizu-dera and Yasaka Shrine, you can take some rest at the cafe or restaurants along the other shops. There are numbers of shops selling their creamy Green Tea ice cream, don’t miss the chance to try!
From Higashiyama District, ride bus number 100 and get off at Ginkakuji.
The Silver Pavilion or what they famously call Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺) is a Zen temple that represents the contemporary culture or what they call Higashiyama culture during the Muromachi Period. They also call it “Temple of Shining Mercy”. It was built as a retirement villa of the 8th Shogun.
Walking all day can be absolutely TIRING, but these was all worth it! Everything about Kyoto is totally amazing, exquisitely preserved and maintained! Can you believe that I was on that ground? It is and will always be a part of every Japanese.
After full restoration in 2008, the temple is now open to the public in full glory. Please do not expect silver foil in it because the plans were halted during the Onin War (1967-1977).
As much as I would like to continue roaming around the other side of Kyoto, I need to meet my airbnb host, EJ Uy, at Osaka Station by 7pm for a dinner.
Please be advised that most of the temples and shrines in Kyoto accepts the last visitor at 4:30 PM only. You better start early if you want to see more.
From Ginkaku-ji, I ride the bus number 100 to reach Kyoto Station. I was almost lost because I don’t know where the right bus stop was, however some residents of this city really knows how to speak in English.
You just gotta give it a TRY asking them.
Time to go back to Osaka, but before anything else…
+ SOUVENIRS +
As a traveler, I always make sure that I have something tangible from the place I’ve been to, something that I can display at home. Aside from the postcards I bought in Inari, I collect Starbucks Tumbler & iconic magnets. 👌 Each tumbler costs around ¥1, 500 (tax included) w/ free coupon.
I also mentioned in my previous article, Tokyo KitKat Chocolatory in Japan offers different and unique flavors only available in a particular city. Kyoto offers new and distinct flavor called Itohkyuemon Hojicha (Hojicha Roasted – Tea Flavor). Special flavor like this may be a bit pricey, I got this box of 12 for almost ¥800.
Some postcards may cost ¥100-300 per piece due to design, but you can also grab box of 12 or 16 cards for only ¥300-400. While on the other hand, magnets may cost ¥250-500, depending on the size.
It was a fun-filled day in Kyoto! My legs wants to give up, but I have to keep moving. As much as possible I would like to share tips and guide for you, traveling around Kyoto can be quite confusing and definitely tiring. Make sure to have the bus guide/map so you can easily travel from one tourist spot to another.
I am grateful that to see this wonderful city even just for a limited time. I am proud of this country in so many aspects. It is very visible that their countrymen is very disciplined and you can see how they embrace their culture and tradition. Wearing kimono and geta sandal (similar to Philippine’s bakya) while paying respect to their temples and shrines is not easy, but they are completely happy and proud of it. They may not be the friendliest folks but don’t hesitate to approach them, they are kind and will definitely try to help you when necessary.
Not everyone in Japan can speak English, but you can expect their officials at the train stations to be of help because they knew business English. As a visitor, I highly recommend you to know some basic phrases and words so you can easily approach them. They will answer in few basic words so you can understand. 🎌 🎌 🎌
I spent less than ¥10,000 for this trip, I think that is a good start for interested travelers to visit Kyoto. I still have to go back and explore the other side of Kyoto! Maybe in 2016. 👌
Thank you for reading! See you next trip. 👣