After spending several days in the busy, hectic Tokyo, miles and miles of walking and some very long 5am to 10pm days. We were feeling a bit worn out and need of change of scenery. So we hopped on to the fastest Shinkansen. (Bullet Train) we could find and headed a few hours west, past views of mount Fuji, to the city of Kyoto. A place I can confidently say is now my favourite city in the world.
Kyoto is polar opposite to the modern and neon Tokyo. Kyoto is a much older, smaller place, with more surviving Japanese culture, history and cultural interest. Being a smaller city, it has slightly slower pace of life and completely different feel to Tokyo. Plus on the days we visited, the weather was a gorgeous and warm 30 degrees. Lovely.
We knew going in, that there was no way we could see everything Kyoto offered in less than 48 hours, so before we left we did a whole bunch of research, narrowing down our list of things we really wanted to see. And rather than rush through all of them, we chose the 5 or 6 parts of Kyoto we desperately wanted to see and then spent a lot of time exploring them as best we could.
The first place of our list was Arayhsima, a district to the west of Central Kyoto and a 20min train from Kyoto station. We started the morning in Aryhsima Bamboo groves. Although you may not have known the name of it, you certainly might recognise this iconic green forest of tall bamboo, situated in an eerily quiet suburb of Kyoto. I can only describe feeling like being truly in authentic, everyday Japan, not a glamorised shiny tourist focused part of it.
After some matcha ice cream, we walked further into the mounts to a place called Nisonin Shrine. Just 100Y (£2.00) to enter, what we found was surreal. One of the quieter, less travelled shrines in this part of Western Kyoto, but also regarded as one of it’s best kept secrets, the Nisonin Shrine was a beautiful maze of greenery and moss, together with incredible old buildings, with a real sense that the history here was fitting in with the natural landscape it was built upon, rather than trying to dominate it. It was the quietest and most serene and relaxing place I have ever been.
The final area we visited before heading back to central Kyoto was the nearby Tenryuji temple. By this point it was late afternoon, and in an area right on a main road, this place was far busier with tourists and busses of school kids. Both grand, imposing and blissfully relaxing and interesting to explore, Tenryuji was something incredible, although I had wished it would be a little less full of people. Our top tip for Kyoto, is to go see the temples and shrines you want early in the day, before anyone else. We did this on our second day in Kyoto and it was well worth getting up for….
Arashiyama Kyoto Travel Photography
All images were shot with a Canon 6D, with either a 24mm f1.4 or 50mm 1.4.