Japan Trip Recap: Days 5 & 6- Kyoto

It’s been a while since I posted about our trip to Japan so here is the start of the second part.

After a lot of moving around during the first part of our trip we would now have four nights in one place. I’ve heard over the years how beautiful Kyoto was but it didn’t quite seem like what I had envisioned. I expected a more slow-paced city along the lines of Chiang Mai in Thailand or Ubud in Bali.

To find the beautiful gardens and ancient temples & sites you need to travel around the city and get off the main roads. When you enter a site all of a sudden the calm, quiet and slow-paced Kyoto appears.

Kyoto is recognized by UNESCO with various sites being named to the World Heritage List under one designation: Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The sites are located in Kyoto, Uji and Otsu. We visited a bunch of these sites around Kyoto and some are mentioned below.

This post will combine the two full days that we spent visting Kyoto

Here are some highlights:

  • Ginkaku-ji, The Silver Pavilion
  • Wandered around the area of Gion
  • Kyoto Station- Isetan Department Store Food Halls
  • Rokuon-ji- The Golden Pavilion
  • Being taught how to make Cup Noodles from school children
  • Ryona-ji- The Dry landscape
  • Ninna-ji, Five Story Pagoda
  • Seeing 1,000’s of torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Our first stop was Ginkaku-ji, The Silver Pavilion. (UNESCO)
When entering the area we walked down a path lined with tall and sculpted trees which was very cool. Once you make your way down the path, you see the temple. The temple is relatively small and is surrounded by water. The funny thing about Ginkaku-ji is that it is known as the Silver Pavilion but there is no silver to be seen!

The grounds were very nice and have some sculptured sand piles near the temple (definitely odd and interesting to see). One problem that we encountered were too many stairs. Stairs can be a real pain when traveling with a stroller. However going up was well worth the effort.
I loved the view of the tree canopy and temple with the rooftops from the city in the distance.

We enjoyed walking around the Gion, which was a geisha district. It was interesting to see the old style tea houses on streets where it seemed like things haven’t changed for centuries. Inside these tea houses (at night) you can still see geisha performing. While walking around the area we saw quite a few women dressed in geisha outfits, wearing the traditional robes with their hair styled up.

Gion is definitely an area worth walking through during the day and at night if you have time to go back. (Which we didn’t get to do due to Lucas.)

While in Kyoto we stayed across the street from the Kyoto Station. This was a great area to stay. We were able to easily catch buses to the sites all around Kyoto (yes- they are a bit spread out). We also used our Japan Rail Pass a couple of times while still staying in Kyoto.

Another great reason was the Kyoto Station itself. The station has lots of stores and restaurants inside which made things very easy for us at night. Within the train station is the Isetan Department Store. Two floors have very good restaurants which were busy with (mostly) locals and some tourists. For our three nights where we needed to grab dinner, we headed over to the Isetan food floors.

Our first night was one of our favorite meals in Japan. We visited a tempura restaurant which has fried dishes, most of them being seafood. The prices were reasonable and the food was excellent.

The other nights we tried a Kobe burger which was very good but a bit small and pricey and a Chinese restaurant which was decent.

Our favorite site that we visited in Kyoto was Rokuon-ji, the Golden Pavilion. (UNESCO)

The temple appears to be on stilts due to the bottom level not being covered in gold leaf.
When we arrived the main viewing area was extremely busy. It was hard walking around over here, especially while pushing a stroller and due to the large groups of people pushing for the best spot to get a photo. We waited or squeezed in and got some nice photos of Rokuon-ji, the best ones being with the reflection of the temple in the water. When you exit the site, you walk along the side, coming very close to the temple. It’s interesting to see up close but looks more dramatic from the first viewing area.

On the way out of the Golden Pavilion I noticed a Cup Noodle vending machine. I was getting hungry so I had to give it a try. We read about these machines at the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama and was hoping to find one during the trip.
There were a bunch of Cup Noodle flavors to choose from. Once you put your money in your selection comes out just like a soda machine at home. The tricky part was how to get the hot water area to work. I wasn’t sure what to do but luckily some kids on a class trip came over to help. The noodles I selected were really good and Lucas tried them too. He loved them so much that he was pushing away ice cream to get more noodles!

Ryoan-ji, The Temple of the Peaceful Dragon had to be the oddest site that we visited (that is part of the UNESCO designation).

The main part of the site and what Ryoan-ji is known for is the rock garden.

The rock garden is known as a zen garden and dry landscape. When we found the garden (after walking all of the way around the grounds) we were confused. A bunch of people were sitting on some steps staring at the rocks. The garden doesn’t really look like much. As seen in the photo above, there are some rocks sticking out of the ground surrounded by neatly arranged gravel. I’m not sure if we were missing something here during out visit…

We made a quick stop at Nina-ji to check out one building in particular. (UNESCO)

Instead of checking out the whole site, we stuck to the visiting the 5-story pagoda which was another favorite during our visit to Kyoto. Lucas loved running around the pagoda and even asked for me to jump! He also tried to jump, which was more like a squat. I’ll save those for another post.

I loved visiting the giant torii gate on Miyajima Island during Day 4 of the trip so when I heard about a site under 10 minutes by train from Kyoto with lots of torii, we had to visit.

Fushimi Inari-taisha has thousands of torii gates of various sizes throughout the shrine. The gates are placed closely together making it feel like you are walking through a tunnel in some sections.
There was a good amount of visitors checking out Fushimi Inari but most of us ran for cover once it started to pour. When the rain slowed a bit, I wanted to see more of the area. Kim and Lucas stayed under an awning and I jogged ahead. The torii seemed to go on and on until I came to an opening which led to more torii going in two directions. This was the sign that it was time to turn back and call it a day.

Fushimi Inari was a pretty unique site to see and I would’ve liked some more time there if not for the rainy weather. I’d definitely recommend a visit if you go to Kyoto.

That wraps up the highlights of our time in Kyoto. Keep checking back for more about our visit to Japan.

Check out some of my other Japan posts:

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