Our first trip to Japan included a visit to the country’s former capital: Kyoto. It is famous because it has centuries of majestic architecture, breathtaking gardens and scenic beauty to its name. The city has kept pace with the modern world as well, which allows for stunning modern architecture and design to sit side by side its ancient wonders, this assimilation makes it one of Japan’s most picturesque cities.
The greater area of Kyoto is known as Kansai. Kyoto does not have its own airport, but international and domestic travelers can use the airports of nearby Osaka and get in via direct train link. For those coming from abroad the best option is to fly into Kansai International Airport and take the Haruka Limited Express train which leaves around every half hour and takes around and hour and twenty minutes. Tourists can take advantage of the JR West Kansai area pass, good for a day it presents a large savings over what locals would pay. Passport and return ticket is needed to get the discount, also be sure to bring cash to pay for these types of tickets. Bus options exist for around the same price, and are equally accessible from the airport. Bullet trains and overnight train options also arrive from Tokyo.
What to See
The city is quite spread out and it follows a grid system of lengthy blocks and quadrants, styled after the Ancient Chinese city of Xi’an. The subway and bus network are efficient and worthwhile for those looking to make stops all around town. We found walking to be quite enjoyable, but distances can be lengthy especially in summer heat. As a historic wonder the city hosts 14 UNESCO heritage sites. The city served as a capital, thus the Palaces of the Emperors are central to its design. The Imperial Palace and the Sento Imperial Palace and the Imperial Villas are all administered by the Imperial Household Agency. The admission is free, however tourist numbers are limited so as to preserve the monuments. Thus it is recommended to apply online to visit or to inquire at the office in person if any vacancies exist on a given day.
Alongside the timeless temples, palaces and gardens. The city has a scene of trendy food, cafes and museums and parks with modern art and sculpture. There are posh hotel accommodations like the Ritz Carlton and the covered Nishiki Ichiba market. The wonders of film fantasy come to life at Eigamura, a living theme park which is also a giant television set. Guests pay to enter and may come in costume as well. Be prepared for dialogues, streetside samurai clashes and drama at every turn. The international manga museum is sure to delight fans of the art form from around the world as well.
An essential attraction is certainly Kinkaku-ji. This is a splendid temple set in gold leaf and surrounded by splendid nature. It is the foremost attraction of Kyoto and can be reached by taking buses 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station. The wonders of stillness and meditation can be perceived at Ryoan-ji Temple. It has a well known dry rock garden which is kept manicured to perfection and presents a curious design which many have tried to decipher across the centuries. Gion may well be one of the most famous districts. It is the place for traditional wooden architecture, teahouses, geishas and musical performances.