Visit Kyoto, a reflection of old Japan. This erstwhile capital entices with both obvious treasures and hidden gems, waiting for travellers to unravel its mysteries. There are some things about this culturally rich city that just cannot be missed!
Kyoto is aptly called the City of Ten Thousand Shrines. Discover architectural masterpieces like the dazzling Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto’s iconic golden Pavilion, the more austere Ginkaku-ji, or Silver Pavilion and the grand complex of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple. The temples are surrounded by beautiful gardens, which enhance the beauty of the temples through the delicate cherry blossoms in springtime, the riot of fall colours in autumn and the snow that lends a serene monochrome during the winters. The Fushimi Inari-Taisha, with its repeating arcades of vermilion torii set against the wooded mountainside, is a sight that cannot be missed.
Being the spiritual centre of Zen Buddhism in Japan, Kyoto boasts some of the most beautiful rock gardens. These dry, landscaped gardens or karesansui, are found at the temples, and being devoid of water, feature gravel and stones prominently instead. The karesansui at Ryoan-Ji Temple has 15 stones laid out across the raked gravel in such a way that they cannot all be seen at the same time. The significance has never been understood. The karesansui at Kennin-ji, Tofuku-ji and Konchi-in temples are equally sublime.
Kyoto engages you in a delightful affair with its elaborate kaiseki cuisine, using the finest local and seasonal produce. If you want something a little more street, then go for ramen. You’ll also taste Shojin ryori or vegetarian Japanese Buddhist fare, various preparations of tofu, and Kyo-wagashi, the traditional Japanese sweets. It’s a special treat to savour these delicacies in some of Kyoto’s restaurants that are set in traditional wooden buildings overlooking a garden.
If you’re in Kyoto, try sighting the elusive Geisha. Gion, characterised by its old wooden buildings, authentic teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants, is perhaps the most famous district for glimpsing a geisha. Or, of course, you could dine with a geisha and enjoy a kaiseki meal, by special arrangement. You could also consider attending one of Kyoto’s five annual geisha dances that occur usually in the spring and fall.
sado, or the tea ceremony, is not peculiar when you visit Kyoto. It is perhaps the best place to experience it due to its close ties with Zen Buddhism, and the fact that this was where the tradition was born. It’s an insightful experience, offering a glimpse into the customs of the Japanese, within the authentic setting of a teahouse.
Shopping on Shijo-Dori
From ancient practices to modern pleasures, visit Shijo, Kyoto’s brand-studded shopping destination that sweeps you off your feet with the glitz and glamour of retail. Apart from well-known international names like Louis Vuitton and Armani, you’ll also discover high end Japanese souvenir stores, in case you’d like to take home something to remember your trip by.
Take a Hike
Kyoto is surrounded on three sides by mountains, providing excellent hiking trails and wonderful sights along the way. For a truly unique experience however, you must walk into the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Surrounded by the tall grass which filters in the most exotic light, you’ll be transported to a different dimension altogether.
Fall in love when you visit Kyoto! This enchanting city wears the seasons beautifully, and invites you to explore its/your soul. Take your time as you experience its myriad facets, and carry them with you as unforgettable memories.