Japan: Kyoto

December 17, 2019



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.

Having built up an appetite, we consulted our TripIt itinerary and made our way to Honke Owariya. Research had named it one of the best udon/soba restaurants in Kyoto.

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.


Early in the morning, we made a trip to Fushimi Inari via a JR train. It’s best to go early to avoid the heat (depending on the time of year) and crowds.

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!

So, after our “photo shoot” at the Yasaka Shrine and the Gion, we arranged to attend a tea ceremony.


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…


Starting our morning at the Nishiki Market for breakfast, we then jumped on the JR Train to Arashiyama.

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!