Free and easy Kyoto

Jes , 5 Comments

After Tokyo and all the food and some sightseeing in Hakone and Hiroshima,  it took around 2 hours to get to Kyoto by Shinkansen. Once you reach Kyoto station and if there is still time to walk around, do purchase the City Bus’s all-day pass at 500 yen. It is worth the money if you take more than two trips a day.
The crowded Kyoto JR station
We chose to spend a little more than budget to stay in a traditional Japanese Guest House for the feel of sleeping in futons on tatami. Ryokan Shimizu was really worth every dime at about S$150/night. The walk from Kyoto station to it took about 10 minutes. you just have to cross the road and turn right. Follow the directions and you will be able to find it.
Some street signs that you will see while you walk there
It's a quaint little building with pleasant owners and they made us feel like special guests. They also had cultural activities like dressing up and writing Chinese words and we got to know and talk to other guests too. You can also rent the bikes to explore the neighbourhood... Pretty fun!

The lovely hotel that contributed to the charm
Sleeping in these futons were really comfortable and cooling
Day 1
The first place we visited in Kyoto was the Nishiki Market. It's a short bus ride away (#5, #205, #206, or #101) from a nearby bus stop and you have to walk 5 minutes away from the main Shijo Ave to find it from the map in the link. Or, you can just follow the crowd like what I did.
Follow the crowd and head towards this...
Just walk around and take in the sights

Fish cakes and more... I love street food!
If you looking for to get some shopping done, near Nishiki market there is a Daimaru Departmental Store. This area is great for dining and shopping and is the most urban area. You can also walk here to Gion area which is not far at all. The first day concludes here because I arrive in Kyoto quite late. Sleep early to start off an early day tomorrow!

Day 2
You will find that there are so many shrines and temples in Kyoto- different meanings by the way, so it's good to be selective. The most popular temple is undoubtedly the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Bus #101, #102, #204 or #205).

Bathed in the shiny, majestic golden facade and sitting proudly in the lake, it is indeed a picture of beauty. Being so beautiful and popular would mean there are crowds everywhere and it's hard to even take a proper selfie at peak hours. For 400 Yen and opened only from 9am to 5pm for a picture-perfect moment, it's great for just one visit in my lifetime.
Post card worthy view
After looking at the golden Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Ginkaku-ji temple will pale in comparison. Although it is called the Silver Pavilion, there is no silver temple around here and just a simple, nothing-special temple. Legend has it that they did not have enough money to cover it with silver and I believe it because Japanese don't do things halfway.
The lack lustre Ginkaku-ji

What makes this place special is actually not the view. The best part of it is the walk leading to it. Tetsugaku no Michi (Philosopher's Walk) is another place that took my breath away, just like Otaru in Hokkaido. Well known as the best trail in Kyoto, strolling alongside cafes, souvenirs stores and quaint little houses made me hope that time would stand still and let me soak in the beauty of all.
The beautiful walk and definitely a memorable one
It's turning winter so it's not really at its best but still so lovely!
It takes around 30 minutes to walk from the bus stop at Eikandō-michi to Ginkaku-ji, but if you really like the place like I do, you would take more than 2 hours... Stopping to visit all the shops, relaxing in their cafes and taking pictures non-stop. You can also visit Eikando Temple at the start if you have time. I do believe it will be even more breathtaking during cherry blossoms season. To get there, you will need to take Kyoto City bus #5 to Eikandō-michi or just ask the driver where to get off. If you go to Kyoto without exploring this, you will regret it!
The little details along the streets

Kiyomizu dera temple (#100 or #206) is the most well known for its magnificent scenery from the top. With such a bird's eye view that you will gladly pay 400 yen for admission, it's no wonder that tour groups crowd around here, making it hard to fully appreciate and enjoy the scenery peacefully. Head there at near the closing time around 4 to 5pm and you should have more room for pictures.
Tall and spiral all the way up!
Super nice and perfect view

This is part of the temple too
The serene view of the low shop houses everywhere
There are so many places to visit in the day and make it before closing so night time is more relaxing. Walking around Gion is just like everywhere else in the city. The difference is that you can now play Spot-a-Geisha. The later the night, the more will appear and most of them look really pretty! Most of them are also more mature, which I think might lead to an extinction in the future. The streets at night are really safe but it's better to avoid drunkards all over. It should be quite cooling to walk around and explore every corner.
One of the popular places at night!
Rustic shop house charm at night
Day 3
Arashiyama is an exotic beauty in Kyoto and you can spend a whole day there. After the rush to visit all shrines and temples, you should come here to explore the countryside tranquillity. With our JR pass, we could take a few stations to get to Saga-Arashiyama station. I zoomed in straight to the hidden gem in this area - The bamboo garden. You can cycle to get around but I chose to walk and indulge in a carefree stroll along the way and slow down my pace.

Such an amazing and cooling place!
The bamboo garden is 10 minutes away and is indeed a great place to visit! Quiet, peaceful, cooling and with tall bamboo stretched high up above our necks, it is like a safe sanctuary that shield me from the real world. I had a lovely day walking around the whole area.
Imposing yet soothing bamboo..
Another compulsory attraction is the Sagano Scenic Railway to see the mountainside scenery at a slow speed of 25km/hour. The railway is just beside the JR Saga-Arashiyama station and it's called the Torokko Kameoka Station. Seeing these natural wonders are exactly why I like to travel and the lack of crowds increased my liking to it. You can also check out other attractions listed here.
Got mountain got lake...
Got little cute figurines as mascots...
Day 4
The top shrine in Kyoto and also the top attraction is Fushimi Inari Shrine. You will be amazed by the thousands of the huge shrine signs lined up accordingly. Be prepared to take a hike surrounded by the signs because it is seriously cool to get in the midst of the red shrine signs. Nice hike and the scenic view at the top did not disappoint. Definitely a must visit!
The start of the hike up!
Being 'trapped' in the maze...

How they looked like from outside
The JR is not able to take us near Nijo castle so we had to take the bus (#9, #50 or #101). It must be quite a grand castle with the cherry blossoms and colourful leaves but unfortunately, I was not there for the right season. At 600 yen a person, I guess it's more worth while to come back at the correct time.... or maybe not. The castles, temples, shrines get too repetitive in the end.
The castle looking good on pictures
One part of it but not sure which...
All these attractions I mentioned were completed when I visited Kyoto twice over the years. Some attractions I could not remember which goes to say that it was not memorable and should probably remain forgotten. I have also attended Haru's Cooking Class and learnt how to cook Kobe beef but I have to admit time is better spent elsewhere than 3 hours in a remote area.

A 4D3N itinerary will give it justice so my must-visit list is:
Day 1: Nishiki Market - Explore Shijo Street
Day 2: Kinkaku-ji - Philosopher's walk - Ginkaku-ji - Kiyomizu - Gion
Day 3: Arashiyama
Day 4: Fushimi Inari Shrine - Nijo Castle

And onwards to Hakata!


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  1. Jes,

    How did you go about figuring the buses to take?

    1. Hi Lizardo,

      They have a bus map for all major sights and with clear instructions on what bus you can take. This map is available at the Kyoto main interchange, which is the place to buy the all day pass. It's very useful so you do not have to fret about the bus numbers!

      Have fun :)

  2. Hi Jes,

    Life is good isn't it. Remember to come back home...before the voting. :-)

    1. Hi Rolf,

      That was my itinerary years ago! Anyway, I am still waiting for the exact voting dates to plan my travelling schedule. Life is indeed good... hopefully it is for you too :P