Kyoto was the best part of the trip in so many ways. The landscape, the people, the shrines & temples. It is stunning, all around. It is hard to put into the right words. The food, the warmth, the serene air, the sound of monks chanting. We stayed in the Gion District, which I highly recommend if quiet and quaint cobblestone streets, with temples and shrines down every alleyway is your jam. It is also known as the area where the Geisha’s live. And yes, you will see them scurry, down winding cobblestone paths, in full dress, usually in the early morning (from the back on the left). The other women may be in training. Koi in the river moat! This is the roofline of the Chion-in Temple, so amazing, I spent an hour at the top once I climbed the unbelievably steep stairs (more like a ladder).
The river that runs through the little town center, surrounds the largest Shrine. There are beautiful arched bridges throughout-I can totally see how Monet was inspired by Japanese gardens and landscapes. That green color is the real deal. I think the light reflects all the lush green trees around it. It’s surreal. This first Shogon’s castle was seriously, one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It was a really hot day-and it took three hours to walk around it-but I wouldn’t have missed it, despite the tourist scene. We spent most every day walking, everyone walks everywhere in Kyoto and Gion, or rides a bike. Other than walking and looking at temples and shrines, and eating, we went to this one arts and craft museum, which was beautiful, but also had some displays that showed all the traditional crafts in Japan. Kyoto is really arty-so wherever you go there are little galleries, and a lot of museums. That’s my dad in the red baseball cap-we stuck out like a sore thumb, there were not a lot of American, or Western tourists. Top of thepphilosphers trail. Very popular durring the cherry tree in bloom. Its a tiny narrow path along the river. This day. So amazing. We took a Taxi up to the top of the Philiospher’s Trail. And hiked up to the temple. It was so hot, but they had soft serve green tea ice cream, and tiny cafes just before the opening of the temple, so I cooled off in the shade with the best green tea ice cream I’ve ever had. To give you an idea of the everyday architecture…this little gated home was so pristine, and private. These homes were tucked away off tiny small winding roads, barely big enough for a car to pass through. Very pretty, and all had beautiful landscaping. METICULOUS wedding going in every day in Japan, it totally made me feel like an amateur gardener! Our hotel was AMAZING! We staying at the Westin, and it was perfect. Right in the middle of everything we wanted to see, on a quite street, with amazing views of the green hills. They were also really great at giving us little tips about where to eat, and hike around. I loved the temple & shrine that was litterally next door to us. There are llong wide steps that lead up to, you’d never know that it was even there, I sat there many times at the shrine, and quietly listened to the chants from the monks, and the view from the graveyard…stunning, and powerful in so many ways. They also had a traditional Japanese style rooms “Kasuien” at the hotel, where you can stay on Takati Matts. It is a 7 level home-steeped over the hill so its lots of different levels. It is surrounded in glass (very mid-century modern) with a zen garden in the middle. We opted for the Western rooms, but I love that you have options if you wanted. I loved the creature comforts of the the Western rooms, which came with a kimono, and signature pajama’s! On our last night we had cocktails at the lounge/bar and watched the sun set…A very swanky pretty room which is art deco (ish) and a bit mid-century. There is a grand piano and these views. The entire bar is glassed in, with a view from every side. I loved the lemon drinks they had, fresh lemon juice, with some rind, and sugar at the bottom. So refreshing! FYI The Queen (living) Elizabeth stayed here and had drinks in this lounge…can you picture that?
There are over 1, 600 temples and shrines in Kyoto alone. So I would recommend planning a bit ahead, and decide what you want to see. You cant see everything if you are there for a week-even two weeks. However they all begin to blend into one, and the bottom line is, none are disappointing ! No matter what you do, where you eat, and stay, Kyoto is really magical.
I could post a million more pictures of Kyoto, and go on and on, but I will spare you. It is everything and more, that I hoped it would be.