First on the list of best places to travel alone for solo female travellers is Kyoto. This city of gorgeously styled temples, art galleries and master pieces of Japanese gardens is best explored walking. For a solo female traveller not just Kyoto but Japan as a country is considered the safest, thus walking through the beautiful corridors around the city with blooming cherry blossoms at night is not a problem at all.
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Fushimi Inari Taisha
This shrine is unique and famous because of the orange torii gates that line the hill. Hiking up and through the gates was a good workout and so worth the view. We saw some Japanese running up the hill as part of their evening exercise! Some were also praying at some of the smaller shrines there.. relatives perhaps? It is a spiritual place and we visited it just as the skies were turning darker. Watching the sun set over Kyoto from a spot near the summit was quite surreal.
Golden Pavilion House
Visit the famous Golden pavillion temple, if you fancy. The highlight is the Gion geisha area, wherein you can watch a traditional Kabuki performace and some elegant Geisha dance… you can also catch a Geisha or two trotting down the streets and have them explain their outfits and/or teach you some hand movements. Do your quintessential purchase here… the kimono and the Geta (Japanese wooden slippers) and feed yourself some awesome street side Ramen gourmet.
The first ever whisky distillery in Japan is worth the iconic status it has gained over the years. There is a whisky library, which is a sight to behold with over 7,000 cataloged bottles on display. In fact, in 2013, the World Whiskies Awards named Yamazaki 25 Year Old the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky.
The Chishaku-In garden is actually rather small and compact, but what there is of it is stunning. Carefully interwoven around some lovely temple buildings and tucked up against one of the many mountains in the area, the gardens consist of small raked-sand zen gardens, ponds, lazy fish, and many flowers artfully scattered inbetween. The temple buildings are mostly open and covered so you can stretch out and relax while watching the little koi swim by.
Sanjusangendo is an amazing place; perhaps one of my favorite . According to the legend, this man became a Kannon (basically a kind of god in Buddhism, but there aren’t gods in Buddhism so it is kind of hard to explain). The idea is that he reached enlightenment and arose to the heavens. Now he looks over humans and takes away their pain and suffering. He supposedly has 1000 arms and extends to all 25 planes. There are hundreds of human-sized replications of his figure in this temple, along with a 2-story sized buddha statue. Each statue has 42 arms arranged in 25 rows to reflect the 1000 total arms. The Kannons are guarded by statues of various figures adopted from Hindu religion (i.e. Brahma). They believe these aren’t gods; rather they are guardians of the Kannon. It is pretty awesome!
Hoshinoyo Kyoto, nestled among the mountains alongside the Oigawa River on the western outskirts of the millennial city, is the ideal place to experience the authentic culture of a Japanese ryokan, presented with all the luxurious comforts of a modern day resort. Guests take a short chartered private boat from the famed Togetsukyo Bridge, to the exclusive 25-room property, whose traditional architecture and impeccable landscape architecture will make you feel like you're worlds away from downtown Kyoto. Enjoy a breakfast ceremony in your private villa room overlooking the tranquil river below, learn the traditional arts of the tea or incense ceremonies or try a zen meditation session in the gardens.
We were really excited to visit Kyoto because it is one of the places where the quaint, traditional, and cultural side of Japan can be experienced. I was all ready to see the temples, walk along the neat little streets crammed with tiny shops with wooden sliding doors. And that's what we did.