Asia Food

Exploring Kyoto

This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi
Exploring Tokyo – Part One
Exploring Tokyo – Part Two
Exploring Kyoto
Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto
Souvenirs from Japan

Even though we loved all of our accommodations in Kyoto and could have stayed in the entire time, of course we didn’t. Kyoto is such a gorgeous city, with so many things to do, that it would have been a shame. Today, I’d like to share some of our favorite sights and eats from around the city.

Each morning, we’d start with a walk along the riverbanks (this is also where we’d end our day). Not only was the scenery beautiful, but it also allowed us to traverse the city to wherever we wanted to go.

Kyoto River Banks

From the riverbanks we could easily go to explore wherever we wanted. One of my favorite activities was just to pick an alleyway and walk down it and discover all the little shops and restaurants.

Kyoto Passageways

The photos above and below were from the Gion District (where I was obsessed with one local cracker shop I found, below.

Ginza Crackers

There are temples everywhere in Kyoto, and everyday we tried to explore a new one. On our first day, we went to Kennin-ji, a Zen temple that had a beautiful painting done in India ink on the ceiling. Beautiful (and reminded me a bit of Dragonball Z, ha!)

Kennin Ji Temple

On another day, we went to visit the very famous Kinkakuji – the Golden Temple. Unfortunately it was raining that day, so we didn’t get the super picturesque view of the temple shimmering like a mirror image in the water. It was still beautiful though. It’s also worth noting that this was by far the most crowded site we went to in Kyoto. I was surprised as it was February, but it was probably due to the Chinese New Year holiday.


On another day, we visited Kiyomizu-dera.


I lit some incense, bought some charms from the temples, and tried to move the giant metal staff. No it did not move.

Kiyomizu-dera Details

After leaving the temple, we walked down a famous historical street, Kiyomizu-zaka, which had a lot of local shops and restaurants. Picturesque!

Kyoto Downtown

All around Kyoto we saw geisha – I think most of them were actually tourists dressed up as such, but we did see some “real” apprentice geisha that the staff at our hotel pointed out to us. I’m not sure if this was an actual geisha or not, but the school boys were plenty enchanted!

Kyoto Schoolboys

Along with checking out the sights, we also spent a lot of our time gaping at, and enjoying, food! Both the Ritz Carlton and Hiiragiya (the ryokan we later stayed at) were quite close to Nishiki Market, so we would stop at least once a day just to grab a snack and check out all of the local foods.

Nishiki Market

There were so many items which I was unfamiliar with, and the locals were always very kind in helping to explain what the various foods were (and dole out samples).

Hey there, happy dude!

Sweet Man

My personal favorite snacks to buy were the sweets – like these ever so delicate pieces of green tea matcha mochi, which you were strongly encouraged to finish by the end of the day for optimal freshness. I never had a problem finishing mine!

Green Tea Mochi

My absolute top pick though, which I returned for seconds, and then thirds for, were  mochi again – these delicious sweets filled with crushed red bean, on top of which was a brilliantly ripe strawberry. These was amazing. I still dream!

Strawberry Mochi

Besides dessert, we still had to eat our actual meals. For one of our first dinners in Kyoto, we returned back to Katsukura, which we had visited last time we were in the city, about three years ago.

Katsukura Kyoto

We started off our meal with some local Kyoto tofu. Mr. Feather wasn’t keen on ordering this dish at all (what, cold tofu doesn’t sound yummy?). But it was so good that even he scarfed down his portion.

Katsukura Tofu

But of course nothing could come close to the main attraction – katsu! Mr. Feather loves katsu so much, that I think this was our third katsu meal in Japan. While waiting for our orders, we had fun pounding sesame and mixing our own katsu sauce together.

Katsu at Katsukura

While Mr. Feather was looking for katsu, I had a huge udon craving while we were in Japan. I probably had four or five bowls of udon while there. We found a delicious place just tucked away on a side street off of Nishiki Market – I was directed there by a local when I was suddenly struck with a noodle craving! Thank you to reader Jessica, who translated the name of the joint, Gontaro!


After a day out and about exploring, we’d slowly meander our way back home along the riverbanks.

Kyoto River

Late afternoons/early evening was the perfect time of the day to enjoy the natural beauty that is everywhere in Kyoto.

Kyoto Florals

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite sights and eats in Kyoto. The next post will be my last on Kyoto, and cover the beautiful ryokan we stayed in!

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  • Whitney Farris
    March 30, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Oh my goodness! One of the trips offered for my daughters JTerm this year is Kyoto. It looks as though she may go. This past JTerm she did Europe. I am a huge fan of all Japanese. I have told you before, I must get there one day.

    • Katherine
      March 30, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Your daughter should go, and then you could visit!

  • Elise
    March 30, 2015 at 8:33 am

    These pictures are so beautiful and that dessert looks unbelievable, is it mochi cakes? I love how traditional and modern at the same time Kyoto appears. I’d love to get there one day!


    • Katherine
      March 30, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Yes mochi filled with red bean and topped with a fresh strawberry!

  • Jessica
    March 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    It says 権太呂 – gontaro in English alphabets. (I’m Japanese. :-))

    I have been a big fan of your blog and whenever I ask you a question you were always very helpful. So I’m glad I could help this time!

    • Katherine
      March 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Ahh thank you Jessica!! And thanks for reading 🙂

  • Sarah
    March 30, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I so have to visit Japan- looks wonderful!

  • Robin
    March 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    How many days should a first-time visitor allocate to Kyoto and Tokyo (we have a 2 week trip planned). We will stick with the typical tourist cities (as we speak no Japanese), but I’m wondering if 4 days in Kyoto and perhaps 5 in Tokyo sounds reasonable?

    • Katherine
      March 30, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      This is SUCH a tough question but I think that is a good amount of days to allocate….are you landing in Tokyo? I think it makes sense to stay 5 days in Tokyo if you are just getting used to the city, getting over jetlag….but if it isn’t your first stop I think maybe I’d do 4 days in Tokyo and add a day somewhere else!

  • Jules
    March 30, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    looks amazing!
    I’m planning a trip this summer, can you maybe tell me what’s the adrress of Katsukura?
    There are so many places with this name and I’m not sure if they are all the same.

  • Jane
    March 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    All the food pics are making me hungry. Kyoto is one of my favorite places to visit. I can’t wait to hear where you stayed. I’m terrible with picking places to stay so I tend to stick to the usual chains or on the recommendations of the travel agent.

    • Katherine
      March 30, 2015 at 8:21 pm

      We stayed at both Ritz Carlton Kyoto and Hiiragiya – would recommend both but also Shiraume!

  • Madeleine
    March 31, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Your fashion and travel blogs are great. Have been your follower for years. Continue to share! I am also planning to go Japan for holiday this or next year so the places you shared will be a great insight for me to add to my itinerary. Do share more in your next blog! Enjoy your pregnancy and time with your hubby before the babe pops!

    • Katherine
      April 1, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy Japan!!

  • Mandy
    April 1, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Kyoto looks beautiful! May i ask how did you travel around kyoto – cabs or trains? I’ve read that their transport system is not as well developed as tokyo.

    • Katherine
      April 2, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Cabs, walking, and the bus. I would say the bus was quite a bit slower than cabs but it was nice to take it a few times and enjoy a different view of the city 🙂

  • Wonderland Boudoir
    April 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    I love your travel post! I can’t wait to get to Japan!

  • Ciara
    April 4, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I’m fortunate to have been to beautiful Kyoto during spring break in business school 7 years ago and must say you took outstanding photos. Really enjoyable to see these.

    • Katherine
      April 4, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks so much Ciara! The credit goes to Mr. Feather who took most of the photos 🙂