If I had to pick a favorite city in Japan, I would choose Kyoto without any hesitation. As a person who is obsessed with traditional Japanese culture, Kyoto is the dream city. It used to be the former Imperial capital of Japan. History and culture stay and brew here. This time I revisited some of my all-time favorite places and explored some new sites in Kyoto.
From Kiyomizu-Dera to Gion
If you don't mind walking, explore Kyoto on your feet! One of my favorite routes is starting from Kiyomizu-Dera, pass by Nineizaka and Yasaka Shrine, to Gion. Along the way, you can see so many historical temples and shrines, interesting shops and tons of delicious food and snacks. You can't see any tall building here, but small wooden houses. History has been so well kept. If you want, get rid of the map for a while and just walk into each alley. There are too many marvelous spots to mark on the map in this area, sometimes just wandering around will bring you to some big surprises.
You might know Arashiyama as one of the best places to see autumn leaves in Japan, but it also has its charm in summer. The bamboo grove is the most well-known spot. It is truly as beautiful as what you see in pictures. The bamboos shield the sky. All I could see was just fresh green color. We walked all the way through the bamboo grove. Towards the end, there weren't many people. I could hear a beautiful song composed by the wind and the bamboo leaves.
Walking down the main street, there are many shops and restaurants along the way. My favorite shop is this handcraft store called "嵐山ちりめん細工館". They have delicate handcraft accessories here. Every time I come here, I always carry home a bag of cute things. It made me admire how exquisite Japanese handcraft could be.
On the bridge, you can see the Katsura River roaring forward. Boats were slowly moving on the river like leaves floating on the water. Life here is so poetic.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
This is my hands down my favorite place in Kyoto! There isn't anywhere else that has a stronger cultural impact to me. You've probably seen many photos of the torii path. Here I felt the power of belief. People respect this place because it is sacred, and this is where the god Inari lives. Foxes are considered as the messengers, so there are fox statues everywhere. I have never felt so close to spirits and gods. Surrounded by the green, the red, the toriis, the shrine, I was like walking into a dream. It was quite surreal and magical. This is probably why I love this place so much, I could always feel the power of belief here.
Since this is one of the most popular travel destinations in Kyoto, there are usually many people, so timing is really important. I have two tips: First, always try to get there as early as possible. Second, the trail that leads up to the mountain is long. The view is absolutely amazing up there, and of course, the further you go, the fewer people there are. If you have enough time and want to do a little hiking here, I recommend you to walk to the mountaintop.
This is one of the most impressive places I've been to ever. Ruriko-in has been on the top of my Japan travel bucket list for a long time. It only opens to the public twice a year for a limited period of time. In summer, the entire temple is filled with green. In autumn, it is one of the best places to go and appreciate the red leaves. The temple is located in Yase, near Mount Hiei. We took the Eizan Electric Railway and the views on the way were gorgeous. The train was like driving in a painting of peaceful Japanese countryside life.
Ruriko-in is such a peaceful place. It is so quiet, and everyone who visited this place quietly appreciated the view and maintained this calm vibe. Here I felt I could let all the thoughts and pressure go, and just let my mind relax. On the second floor, there was a place for people to copy a passage of Sutra. I enjoyed this moment a lot. Nowadays we don't write with pens often anymore. It felt great to just sit down, calm down and focus on handwriting. The second floor is also the best place to see the view. Outside of the window, everything is defused with the fresh, crystal green of trees. The gorgeous view was reflected in the table and created a dreamy vision. This is an amazing, refreshing experience that granted me with strong inner peace.
We didn't get a chance to visit Heian Shrine last time we were in Kyoto, so I was very excited to finally check it out. Heian Shrine is as truly beautiful and astonishing as what I saw in all the pictures. The bright colors give so much passion and energy to this place. We went there around sunset and there weren't many people in the park. It was a peaceful moment to just watch the clouds slowly moving forward, and feel the beauty of every detail in the architecture.
Nishiki market is definitely one of the top places to go for shopping and eating. There are modern shops as well as traditional Japanese food stands, as well as a hidden gem- Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine. The lanterns at the entrance created a wonderful illusion that took me to a different world. The shrine had a compelling visual contrast with all the modern shops around it. That's why I love Japan so much. I love the culture contrast everywhere.