HOTEL IN KYOTO
We stayed at Sakura Terrace: 〒601-8016 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Minami Ward, Higashikujo Karasumacho – a very spacious modern hotel and only around £40 pp per night.
We chose to stay near Kyoto station given the city is fairly spread out and we wanted to have good links to transport. Whilst there is not that much to do in the area, we found it a great place to base ourselves.
The other real plus point was the welcome drink EVERY NIGHT between 6pm and 10pm – you can choose from wine, beer, prosecco and spirits. The hotel has a gorgeous terrace area outside to sit with fairy lights and blankets if it gets a bit chilly.
If you do not have time to try an onsen in Japan, definitely give the public baths at the hotel a go. You can go there from your room in a dressing gown and slippers (provided) and the baths have space for around 8 people (you must be naked!) and they are glorious and warm. Absolutely recommend this hotel.
THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO
We arrived from Tokyo into Kyoto main station from the bullet train (you must get a bento box onboard) and walked 10 minutes to our hotel (see separate tab).
Below is an overview of how I spent my 6 days in Kyoto (2 of them in Hiroshima and Nara – see separate tabs).
Day 1 – Nishiki Market food market
604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward
Our first stop was Nishiki Market in central Kyoto, which is open until from 9.30am to around 6.30pm. It is essentially one stretch of road with all sorts of street food on offer – sushi, squid, yakitori, octopus and so much more, all priced between £1 and £3 so sample away!
At the end of the market (and to the sides as you walk through) are souvenir and clothes shops so plenty to keep you busy for the afternoon. There is also a small Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple to visit.
Day 2 – Hiroshima (see separate tab)
Day 3 – Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882, Japan
Fushimi inari is famous for the rows and rows of endless orange tori (shinto shrine) gates which lead upwards into the mountains. We climbed half way up through hundreds (maybe thousands) of tori gates and then meandered our way down although, if you have time, I recommend walking the whole way up (around 4km).
On the way, there were mini shrines and tori gates to observe so you can disappear from the crowds now and again. As you explore the shrines, you will come across many stone foxes, which are considered the messenger of Imari.
Free entrance too so a must see!
This is a huge Buddhist temple overlooking the city – just the walk up to the entrance is bustling with souvenir shops on each side (and queues!).
Gorgeous views of the city from the main hall which has a huge varandah over the hillside. Walking down from the hall is the waterfall Otowa-no-taki where you can drink sacred waters believed to give you good health and longevity.
Around the main hall there are a number of smaller shrines and pagodas – you can spend a couple of hours just wandering around and admission only £3.
400 Rinkacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-8686, Japan
We then walked from Kyomizu-dera via Ishibei-koji and Kodai-ji through to Maruyama-koen park. A short walk from there is Chion-In, a vast temple, which has huge steps to climb up before entering the grounds. We visited near to closing time and didn’t seem to have to pay to visit the grounds and part of the temple.
Before dinner, we took a romantic walk down the Ponto-Cho along the river.
Day 4 – Nara (see separate tab)
Day 5 – Arashyima and Kinkaku-ji
One of my favourite days was on the Sagano Scenic Railway (which is not actually mentioned in many books and is also called the ‘Romantic Train’) which is a wonderful 30 minute ride on an old steam train taking in the beautiful surroundings and stopping off for picture taking time.
The trains run every hour (at 7 minutes past) – we arrived for the midday train but, as there is only one open aired carriage on the train, we bought tickets for the later train. Admission of around £8.
Whilst we were waiting for the train, we visited Tenryu-ji Zen Temple which had an amazing garden and a stunning lake with all different coloured trees surrounded it.
We then moved on to Arashymia bamboo forest – if you have time, walk the trail after the initial work through the towers of trees.
Given we had our train booked, we turned left and walked around the forest and found some really stunning viewpoints.
We moved on to Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Temple was another extremely popular tourist point but, again, worth a visit, especially if you tie it in to other activities around the area. Around £4 entrance fee, the temple itself is stunning and you can get some fantastic pictures of the reflection in the water. The crowds are so big it can take a while to walk around what is actually a small area but you only need around 1-1.5 hours.
Day 6 – Kurama-dera -Mount Kurama
We travelled to Kibune-guchi station and visited the temple there:
We then walked to the start of the Mount Kurama hike which took around one hour with various viewpoints on the way – we were given a map and it cost around £2.50 to enter.
After the hike, we walked to Kurama Onsen (520 Kurama Honmachi, Sakyo-ku) which is open until 9pm. A very affordable way to visit an Onsen without paying for a stay at a Ryokan at just £12 entrance for the outdoor bath access. Open to the public, you could be with two people or ten people but everyone is fairly quiet bathing (naked and single sex) in the hot springs and listening to nature. Absolutely lovely. Only tip is to take a towel, as you have to pay around £5 just for hiring one. We spent a couple of hours there just completely chilling out!
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