With a beautiful and diverse culture and history, there is no wonder why this location is at the top of most people’s travel bucket lists. Japan is home to the worlds largest megacity; Tokyo that is filled with businessmen and women, phenomenal high tech and buzzing culture and, also gorgeous and picturesque rural locations such as; Miyazaki where you will find waterfalls, stunning greenery and much more! There is so much to do in Japan, but picking where could be a challenge. Most people tend to visit Tokyo but, we’re going to explain to you why you MUST visit Kyoto.
As we know, Tokyo is famous for being the busy capital of the country with, its infamous neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. Tourists travel to Tokyo for the vibrant culture and way of life, including the top-rated restaurants, to test out the technology and, to visit the luxurious shopping scenes that include the fashion district of Harajuku. However, only 283 miles (445 km) from Tokyo is Kyoto, where you will find some of Japan’s oldest and most phenomenal cultural locations and landmarks!
So, why Kyoto? 🗾
Kyoto which was once the capital of Japan is one of the country’s main tourist attractions. If travelling to Japan to experience culture and history, then Kyoto is for you. This is because, it is one of Japan’s and, the worlds greatest cultural and historical cities.
Known for its numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, Kyoto is brimming with culture, colour and life. Therefore, this is an obvious choice for anyone who would like to immerse themselves in the authentic Japanese culture with, a plethora of activities to add to your bucket list!
When to visit? 🌸
Kyoto is brilliant to visit all year round, with the climate varying and lots of different festivals taking place each month, there is something to suit everyone. However, most tourists tend to visit between the months of March to May and from September to November when the weather is the mildest. The Spring months will allow you to witness the blooming cherry blossoms and the Autumnal months feature the fall of vibrant foliage.
If you want to visit when it's cold, January is the best month for you, with lows of 32.5°F and, if you fancy a hot summer vacation then, you will experience highs of 91.2°F. That’s why, most tourists head over to Kyoto in Spring, especially for the events such as; Golden Week (May) or, Aoi Matsuri (May).
What to do? 🏯
The city of Kyoto is home to a number of infamous and phenomenal landmarks and museums such as; The Kinkakuji Temple and the Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum.
Kickstart your trip by fully immersing yourself in the traditional culture of Japan by visiting the Kinkakuji Temple, which is a Zen Buddhist temple and was first completed in 1397 AD. This is one of the most famous temples in Japan, perhaps due to its luxurious appearance. The temple features gold leaf on its top two floors. Between the glitz of the temple and the glorious backdrop of the lake and, the stunning gardens that surround it, this location is very zen. Unfortunately, tourists are unable to enter the temple, so get your walking boots ready as you will be taking in the nature that surrounds you.
Sticking with the culture of Japan, head over to the Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum. If you are a samurai or Ninja lover then, this museum is for you! Here you can enjoy an experience-based tour in which you can; watch a Samurai sword show, dress up in a traditional Japanese hakama or a ninja suit or, learn about the rich history of Japanese warriors - the history of this museum mostly starts in the Edo period around 300 years ago.
This next stop is a MUST for all foodies - The Nishiki Market. Known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’ this market offers an extensive range of stalls and stores that strive to cater to your materialistic desires. Stalls offer street food, ingredients/produce (all freshly grown), tableware and much more, this market offers true Japanese charm and tradition. The overwhelming amount of food, drink, gifts etc. covers 400m long stretch meaning that you may be there a while! Taste is the best way to explore this market, with delicacies such as; Tako Tamago - skewered baby octopus with a quail egg in the head, Sesame Dumplings, Fresh Grapefruit Juice and many many more.
Where to eat and drink? 🥢
In the mood for sushi? Head downtown to one of Kyoto’s best and most affordable Sushi restaurants - Sushisei. Here you can either take a seat at the counter where the chef’s will put on a show in which you can watch your food be made or, find a table elsewhere and sit back and enjoy.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more casual, and cheaper, then Kurasu Kyoto is for you. Positioned 5 minutes away from Kyoto station, this is a very stylish cafe that sells superb coffee. Lighter snacks and biscuits/ cookies are sold here so are perfect for before or after a journey on the train. The emphasis is placed on the espresso based products sold here, with the cafe selling both different types of brewed coffee and, coffee-brewing equipment and related goods… perfect for taking home as a gift!
You can’t go to Japan and not try some flavoursome Ramen so, we suggest that you go to No Name Ramen, in downtown Kyoto. The nameless restaurant can be identified by its exterior staircase, that leads to the urban restaurant below. Upon entering, you’ll be met by a light and airy restaurant with its white walls, concrete floors and green interior. The Ramen arrives quickly at your table, featuring large amounts of meat and fresh vegetables, a perfect amount of noodles and a delicious broth that tops it all. The restaurant also offers curries or tsukemen.
Where to stay? 🏣
Depending on your budget and personal preference, Kyoto offers hotels of all types.
Luxury - Four Seasons Kyoto
Located in the Higashiyama district, set alongside an 800-year-old pond garden once owned by a wealthy samurai family, this hotel boasts luxury and zen. The hotel features an elegant and calm style that features Japanese patterns and characteristics. Just like the rest of the chain, this hotel has superb service and staff and brilliant facilities such as; a subterranean swimming pool lined with wooden cabanas and bubbling baths, pine saunas and ofuru showers, and, a relaxing spa. The rooms are extremely modern but reflect true japanese culture like the rest of the hotel, throughout.
Price: Doubles in low-season from Japanese Yen 60,000 (£443), room only. Buffet breakfast costs an additional JPY 4,800 (£34) per person. Wi-Fi is included.
Mid-Range - Kyomachiya Hotel Shiki Juraku
Fancy peace and quiet? This hotel is located in a quiet residential area, close to Kyoto Imperial Palace and other landmarks. Fused with traditional and contemporary Japanese and Kyoto craftsmanship, this hotel is very sleek and simple. The hotels structure is comprised of 10 machiya (townhouses) that have been converted into self-contained guestrooms with a small reception and distinct red-walled restaurant on the ground floor. Despite no room service, each room has special blends of Kyoto coffees and bio teas and, there are communal facilities in the restaurant in which, breakfast is served or, cocktails during the evening.
Price: Double rooms from 34,000 Japanese Yen (£224) in low season; and from 87,000 Japanese Yen (£573) in high. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Budget - Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier
When staying here, views will include that of the river and Kyoto’s mountains to the east. The hotel is less than 1000ft from hundreds of fantastic bars and restaurants on Pontocho Street meaning that, positioning is superb! The exterior and interior of this hotel is modern Japanese, with large windows making it light and airy, concrete flooring and dark wood walls. All rooms have comfy beds and plush sofas to relax and unwind on, Pola (Japanese cosmetic company) amenities and, hi-tech features like remote-control blinds. The hotel has a restaurant that offers a Japanese/Western, buffet style breakfast which is slightly pricey, and, a Japanese and French buffet style lunch.
Standard rooms from 48,000 JPY (£326) per night during low season; and from 130,000 JPY (£884) per night during high. Breakfast excluded (buffet 2,700 JPY/£19). Free Wi-Fi.
Starting from Skratch? Here are a few tips to get you started: