This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.
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.
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.
The photos above and below were from the Gion District (where I was obsessed with one local cracker shop I found, below.
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!)
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.
After leaving the temple, we walked down a famous historical street, Kiyomizu-zaka, which had a lot of local shops and restaurants. Picturesque!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Late afternoons/early evening was the perfect time of the day to enjoy the natural beauty that is everywhere in Kyoto.
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!