Japan Travel Destination: Kyoto
When asked to recommend one city to visit in Japan, most Japanese and ex-tourists alike will tell you not to skip Kyoto. Understandably so — this historic capital is rich with pure aesthetic beauty, culture, and tradition. The best times to visit are in the spring, when cherry blossoms grace the temple gardens, or the fall, when the foliage offers a gorgeous backdrop for the many shrines and make for a great hike in the surrounding nature. Here are some essential aspects of the city, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg:
Temples and Shrines
It is impressive how many historically important temples and shrines have their home in Kyoto. Each one is beautiful in its own right, but even for the most fanatic tourist, visiting temple after temple could easily get tiring (and time-consuming). Some of the most famous ones are: Kingakuji, a gold-leafed building that used to be a residence and is now a temple; Kiyomizudera, the temple hovering above the Higashiyama district overlooking all of Kyoto; and Chionin, a large temple with an impressively large gate called San-mon. These are only a few out of dozens. Make sure you decide on several specific ones to visit to avoid an exhausting tourism frenzy.
This river that runs through Kyoto is a picturesque harmony between nature and man. Many restaurants are built along the water and it is popular to eat out on the deck on a warm summer evenings in a tradition called noryo-yuka. Good weather brings families and picnickers to the banks during the day and groups of teens and romantic couples by night.
This historic district is a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with intriguing restaurants, tea houses and a host of vendors selling street food or souveniers. This area is one place in Kyoto where a tourist is almost assured the site of a maiko – a geisha-in-training – gracing the streets with her ornate presence.