Home to tranquil temples, lush gardens, striking shrines and mysterious geishas, a visit to Japan would not be complete without venturing to its cultural and historic centre, Kyoto. Providing a striking contrast to the chaotic, neon-lit and modernistic mega city of Tokyo, Kyoto is a completely different world. The city exudes warmth, classic character and a timeless elegance so palpable it almost feels as if time has stood still.
Therein lies the magic of Kyoto and it is reason enough to add this captivating city to your bucket list RIGHT NOW. If you need a little more convincing however, here are seven more reasons to add Kyoto to any Japan travel itinerary.
1) Gion District
The oldest district in Kyoto, Gion is the epicenter of geisha culture. Here you’ll find a winding maze of alleyways, a myriad of tea houses, incredible shopping, delectable cuisine and night time entertainment. You’ll more than likely spot a geisha or two as they disappear down the winding streets and trust me, it will all hardly seem real.
2) Bamboo Forest
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of Kyoto’s most striking and well-known sights, and for good reason. Standing amid towering stalks of bamboo is a moment of pure magic, and one not to be missed on a trip to Kyoto.
3) Stay in a traditional ryokan (guesthouse)
While there are plenty of Western-style accommodation options in Kyoto, there’s nothing like embracing traditional Japanese culture and staying in a ryokan. The hospitality you’ll experience will no doubt be the highlight of your visit.
4) Wear a beautiful kimono
You will see kimonos everywhere in Kyoto and a stay in a ryokan comes with a kimono lent to you for the duration of your stay.
5) Fushimi Inari-Taisha
Sitting at the base of a thickly wooded mountain, the seemingly endless passageway of brilliant orange gates is one of the most recognized sights in all of Japan. In reality, there are thousands of orange gates leading all the way up Mount Inari and this is perhaps one of the most impressive religious sites I’ve visited to date.
6) Tenryuji Temple
Kyoto is home to hundreds of exquisite temples but if you visit just one during your time in Kyoto, make it Tenryuji. It is simply stunning and no photos will ever do it justice. Be sure to see it for yourself!
7) Incredible Shopping
Shijo Street in the heart of central Kyoto is a shopper’s paradise. Here you’ll find everything you can imagine, and then some. Not far from Shijo Street is the famous Nishiki Market – an incredible marketplace of more than one hundred shops and restaurants and another must-visit for those among us who love to shop.