I visited Japan in 2016 during the autumn season and it was the most amazing experience ever. Here’s my attempt of documenting my Japan trip in 3 parts, since my trip was about 13 days long and it’s too hard to document what I love across Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in one post.
Since I spent much lesser days in Kyoto, my reasons to visit will be way more specific than that of Tokyo. Here goes…
[3D2N itinerary can be found at the end of the post]
Reason #1: Fushimi Inari Shrine
You probably have seen pictures of its thousands of vermilion colored torii gates, but let me assure you, its definitely still worth to see it in person. It is absolutely breathtaking – both literally and figuratively with plenty of stairs – to walk through the torii gate covered hiking trail. For photography, it is recommended to proceed further up the route, as the crowd generally disperses along the way.
Reason #2: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Another popular location often seen in photos representation Kyoto is the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Like the Fushimi Inari Shrine, this is also another location where no picture can truly capture the feeling of being there. Standing amidst the tall soaring bamboos of the forest truly transports you to a completely different time and place. Do try to visit earlier in the day before the hordes of tourists come by for maximum impact of the tranquility of the forest.
Reason #3: Kiyomizu-dera Shrine
There are plenty of famous shrines in Kyoto, but apart from the gorgeous scenic views around the shrine, the reason why this particular shrine is on the list is because of a unique attraction within – Tainai-meguri (a Tour of the Womb).
Most tourists walk right past this nondescript little building which is why I am highlighting this as a key place to visit. The entrance to the tour is to the left of the main entrance of the Shrine. Pay a entrance fee of 100 Yen, remove your shoes and walk in a single file down into a basement of complete darkness. With only a beaded rope to guide you in the pitch dark environment, you will come towards a large stone where you can make a wish, and from there climb up the stairs towards the light. This is an interesting experience symbolizing the return into the womb of a Bosatsu and being reborn from the darkness. No pictures are allowed inside, so the only way to experience this is to pay a visit yourself!
Reason #4: Hafuu Honten
This for Wagyu beef lovers. Hidden away in a residential area this restaurant requires you to take a detour from the typical tourist attractions. As the restaurant is really small, I would recommend to book early (our hotel recommended and booked this dinner place for us!) to ensure you don’t miss out. The set meals are extremely worth it ranging from 8200 Yen to 10,000 Yen (SGD 100 -120) considering that you will be enjoying top-notch wagyu meat. I also remembered being pleasantly surprised by their seafood gratin which was absolutely divine. The chefs and staff are really friendly and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner conversation whilst watching them prepare the various dishes. This is the only restaurant recommendation I have on the list for a reason – MUST GO!
Reason #5: Nara Park
Living in Singapore we don’t get the opportunity to be up close and personal with wild animals, so imagine a whole park full of the most adorable deers just roaming around for you to feed and have fun around? Absolute love. I spent the whole day running around feeding them, getting more deer feed and feeding more of them. I almost did not want to leave – I mean just look at these faces!!! My husband had to get me an adorable deer plushie to persuade me to leave. If you are making a trip down yourself, do so make sure you allocate at least half a day to explore the park.
Reason #6: Gion, geishas & girly dress up!
Growing up, I remember reading and loving the book Memoirs of a Geisha – a fictional first hand account of a geisha’s life in Kyoto pre and post WWII. Walking down the roads of Gion, I could envision scenes from the novel vividly – how young Sayuri first entered one of the renowned geisha houses, her transformation from young girl to celebrated geisha, her encounters with the various men in her life in the tea houses etc. I even lucked out, seeing a few geishas walking along the streets, all decked out in their finest clothes. Want to dress up in pretty kimonos too? There are also plenty of dress up shops all around town for you to rent one for the day and play dress up amidst the picturesque setting of Kyoto.
Reason #7: Sakura Terrace The Gallery Hotel
Normally, hotels are just a place I put up whilst I travel around, but in this case, I found a hotel that made me want to return early so I could enjoy the facilities and bask in the relaxing environment. With a in-house modern public bath and sauna, I could not help but visit it on a daily basis, sometimes even sneaking out early in the morning for soak. The bar also offers drinks and food at extremely reasonable prices (for Japan), accompanied by soft live music. And did I also mention, the hotel is barely a stone’s throw away from the Kyoto train station. How perfect can it get?
Reason #8: Yummy Kyoto Street Food
And last but not least how can I forget the awesome food you can easily get along the streets and markets of Kyoto town? I had my fill of bentos, soft serve ice cream, fish cakes, sashimi, FRIED CHICKEN (SO GOOD seriously), funky pickled cucumbers, wagyu beef, handmade mochi and more…
And….that brings my 8 reasons for visiting Japan (Kyoto) to an end.
For more details on how I spent my time in Kyoto. here’s a quick overview of the itinerary that my travelling companion & I followed.
Look out for more Tokyo and Osaka (coming soon! details on HARRY POTTER LAND!) highlights and itineraries in my other posts!