December 17, 2019
JAPAN (DAY 10 TO 12): KYOTO
DAY 10: NISHI HONGAN-JI TEMPLE & NIJO CASTLE
To get a head start on the day in Kyoto, we took the early morning JR Train from Osaka.
With the Air BnB check-in not until later in the afternoon, we decided to store our luggage in the lockers at the Kyoto station.
From the train station, we made our way to Nishi Hongan-ji Temple.
When we arrived, signs asked us to remove our shoes before stepping inside. However, bathroom slippers were provided when using their facilities.
Fun fact: In Japan, it’s common to wear different slippers when using the bathroom, versus the rest of the home. Read more about the Japanese slipper etiquette!
Our next stop was Nijo Castle. After touring the grounds, we rewarded ourselves with matcha beer and ice cream covered in gold flakes.
From the ambiance, to the food, we left quite content!
It was now time to check-in to our Air BnB, so we made our way back to the train station to grab our luggage.
The house we rented was extremely clean, spacious and in a great location. We had a living room, laundry, bathroom and kitchen on the main level. And, the 2nd level had plenty of room for 4 of us to sleep. I highly recommend if you plan on staying in Kyoto!
Settled in our new home for the next few nights, we stopped for a quick dinner before receiving a well deserved foot massage.
With our feet now like jelly, we headed back towards the Air BnB, stopping for a quick nightcap.
DAY 11: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE & THE GION
Greeted by street food vendors and shops, you make your way up at your own leisure. It was the perfect way to start the day!
Unfortunately, fallen trees (caused by the typhoon less than a week prior) prevented us from making the full 2-3 hour hike up. However, we were able to get up far enough to capture some really nice pictures.
We were back near the Gion for our 2pm appointment at Okamoto Kimono to rent kimonos for the afternoon.
The ladies in the shop were amazing! Our first task was to choose our kimono and accessories (bag, obi/belt, etc.). Once that was decided, we were taken up to the 2nd floor to be dressed in our kimonos and have our hair done.
The remainder of the afternoon was ours to do as we pleased!
Returning our kimonos before closing, we walked to the Gion Corner Yasaka Hall, for a geisha/maiko performance.
Following the show, we stopped for a sushi dinner in the Gion Corner. As we were being seated, we witnessed a Geisha entering a private dining room full of guests. I was starstruck.
The entire afternoon/evening was like a scene in Memoirs of a Geisha. All 4 of us were in love…
DAY 12: ARASHIYAMA & IMPERIAL PALACE
We hiked up to the Monkey Park Iwatayama to view the monkeys up close and personal. I had to restrain myself from trying to take one home!
From there, we made a small coffee break stop at a tiny cafe, before walking to the Bamboo Grove.
After leaving Arashiyama, we made our way to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The grounds surrounding the Palace were huge, and the gardens, peaceful.
Twelve days into our adventure, and we were in need for a good massage. So, we made our way back to the Gion in time for our reservations at Olive Spa.
The service was amazing, and we left feeling extremely relaxed!
Next on our agenda was a sake tasting before dinner.
Gion Tokiwa opened it’s doors in 1922, and is known for it’s udon noodles. We feasted here, before heading out to enjoy our last night in Kyoto.
After a recommendation from a friend, we chose In the Moon for a post-dinner drink. With an amazing rooftop view of the city, it served as a perfect spot to toast our journey.
At that point, two of the four chose to call it a night, while two of us continued on to Ki Bar.
Surprisingly, the bartender was a guy that grew up in the Toronto area. We talked about what brought him there, what Toronto was like now, etc. We also made friends with 3 Austrians that were traveling through Japan.
One of them solved the 5×5 rubik cube sitting on a shelf with ease, and we all celebrated. The Austrians then broke out into an Austrian song…it was amazing LOL
From there, we all bar hopped a couple of spots together, before calling it a night.
In all of my travels, Kyoto is (easily) in my top 5 to visit!
- This Air BnB was extremely spacious, clean, and the hosts were easy to get a hold of prior to arriving (we did not need to contact them during). It was a punch code entry, so 4 of us could each come and go, and not have to worry about who had the key. Highly recommend https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/21868579?_branch_match_id=730283687375805699&locale=en&ref_device_id=3623bb55244692da&s=40&user_id=104012752&source_impression_id=p3_1575351431_XOA7bv0yR9Dr7xTP
- 7Eleven has great snacks for on the go! Try the Onigiri (rice balls) wrapped in seaweed, and filled with a variety of different things
- Gion Corner Yasaka Hall https://www.kyoto-gioncorner.com/global/en.html
- Gion Tokiwa https://eng.trip.kyoto.jp/spot/db/tokiwa/
- Honke Owariya https://honke-owariya.co.jp/en/
- In the Moon https://inthesoup.jp/
- Instant ramen noodles from 7Eleven – Leave lots of room in your suitcases to bring back – it’s made by a Michelin Star chef, and it’s DELICIOUS! https://www.eatingwithkirby.com/2018/05/michelin-starred-tsuta-ramen-instant-vs-the-real-deal-review.html
- Ki Bar https://www.kibarkyoto.com/gallery
- Kit Kat – Japan makes a variety of flavours (my fav is the matcha), and can be found at most convenient stores around Japan
- Nishiki Market
- Japan does have a slipper etiquette that travelers should be aware of
- Kimono Rental – A MUST-DO is to rent a kimono for the day, and stroll around the city. Highly recommend https://www.okamoto-kimono.com/ Try and find a tea ceremony to attend, so you get the full experience!
- Lockers at the train station are very convenient and easy to use. It’s perfect for commuting days when check-in/out times for accommodations do not align https://www.kyotostation.com/kyoto-station-lockers-luggage-storage/
- Olive Spa https://www.olivespa.co.jp/ was the perfect spot to get a massage
- Pocket WiFi rentals can be done from any major train station or airport https://tokyocheapo.com/business/internet/rent-wifi-router-japan/
- Soca In Japan – if you’re looking for a Carnival experience, plan your trip around Tokyo’s soca weekend schedule https://www.socainjapan.com/
- Tattoos – it is important to understand the Japanese culture around tattoos. Out of respect and tradition, places such as onsens, may not allow guests with tattoos to use these Japanese hot springs https://blog.gaijinpot.com/how-to-onsen-if-you-have-tattoos/
- TripIt is a great tool for organizing your trip and building an itinerary that fellow travelers can view and contribute to
- Viator is a great site/app to have when picking tours/excursions! They are organzied, easy to find, and often have quicker access to sites when you are with them https://www.viator.com/
- Arashiyama – Monkey Park Iwatayama
- Arashiyama – Bamboo Grove
- Fushimi Inari
- Kyoto Imperial Palace
- Nijo Castle
- Nishi Hongan-ji
- Nishiki Market
- Yasaka Shrine
- Japan Rail Pass – looking into the 7, 14 or 21 day passes depending on how many cities you are traveling too while there https://www.japan-rail-pass.ca/jr-pass
- Kyoto Bus/Subway pass https://www.insidekyoto.com/special-kyoto-bus-train-subway-passes