Kyoto is a magnificent Japanese city that holds hundreds of temples, some of which are of unimaginable beauty. As I think about our time here, flashes of cute streets and shops, beautiful geishas walking around Gion (a popular neighborhood, not to mention my favorite), great street food, and an amazing train station come to my mind.
We had never seen such a lively, fun and safe train station before. It has many shops, two malls, a rooftop from which to admire the city (plus it is free), Kyoto’s tower a block away, and really good restaurants, good as in Japanese people go to dinner there on a Saturday night. And it is always safe, even at late hours. I’m not sure about the rest of Europe, but at least in Italy, train stations are to be avoided after 11 pm (beggars and delinquents gather there). Definitely not here, though.
We stayed in a hotel a block away from the station. This was convenient for us as we planned to travel by train to nearby cities. The Shinkansen is also part of the fun. These ‘bullet trains’ are clean, comfortable, and always on time. The advantage of getting the Japan Rail Pass is that for a week or two (depending on the type you buy) you can travel anywhere in Japan as many times as you want. This pass is for tourists only and you can only buy it outside Japan.
Really, with these tracks, who needs to fly?
My husband and I agree that the most breathtaking of Kyoto’s temples is Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion.
Covered in gold and surrounded by nature, this temple leaves you speechless. Regardless of its many visitors, it is quite peaceful and tranquil. As you walk by the pond towards the temple, you get a sense of fulfillment that’s impossible to describe. The scenery is magnificent.
And then there’s also bright Fushimi Inari Shrine, just outside Kyoto (a 5-minute train ride), situated on Mount Inari. Bellissimo! Its vermillion color symbolizes life force and it’s believed to counteract spells. There are more than ten thousand toriis (shirne gates) offered by worshippers all across Japan. Each torii is unique.
To visit this temple or better said ‘complex’ you need at least half a day, comfortable shoes and strong legs as you’ll walk and walk and walk up the hill. Halfway through, the prize is Kyoto’s panorama and a purer soul.
Back in Kyoto’s heart, Kiyomizu is also a must, not only because shrines here are gorgeous, but because Gion, where it is located, is a colorful and fascinating neighborhood. One would need at least two full days to walk its streets, visit its many shops, eat and eat again, and meet its Geishas.
The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is the old Japan. Downtown gives you the typical neon lights, vending machines, interesting modern shops the country offers, but this city was and probably still is the soul of the Land of the Rising Sun, all thanks to its magnificent temples and history.
A sin to miss this city, impossible to forget it.