For me, Kyoto has the perfect balance of the Old and the New. A place where traditional blends seamlessly with the modern and a feeling I thought I would feel in Athens. During our time in Kyoto, we visited the usual tourist spots: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Kinkaku-ji; Kiyozumi-dera; Arashiyama; Nishiki Market; Nijo Castle; Gion. Each site had it's own charm and beauty and when I go back to Kyoto, I would visit them all again.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Even though you may not know the name Fushimi Inari Taisha I am sure you've seen pictures of it at least once. It is the spot where you see hundreds vermilion torii gates that line a path like the one pictured below. The torii gates are not the only attraction at Fushimi but it is likely the main reason tourists come here.
We arrived Fushimi Inari via the JR line and as soon as we exited Inari station, the shrine was right there. An alternate train line to get here is the Keihan line which stops a few streets over. It is a nice walk through the streets with small shops.
We decided to go to Fushimi Inari a earlier in the morning to hopefully beat the large tourist groups. When we arrived at 930am, it was already pretty busy but not compared to how busy it got at noon when we left.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha is the head shrine of the god Inari who is the god of rice, tea, sake, fertility, agriculture and of prosperity, and is one of the principle kami (or spirit) of Shinto. The Kitsune, or fox, is believed to be a messenger to Inari.
We spent a lot of time hiking up the mountain and taking pictures in between. There is so much to see and experience along the way, so when you visit Fushimi Inari-Taisha, I would allot at least 2 to 3 hours to enable you to really experience the area and the beauty of Mount Inari. It could be done in a little over an hour but that wouldn't do the place justice. Be warned, the hike up to the top of Mount Inari is like a stair master challenge! We only made it halfway up and according to my pedometer, we climbed 55 flights of stairs!
Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion is one of the most beautiful places I visited not only in Kyoto but in the world. Admission is ¥400 (roughly CAD$5) and worth every penny in my opinion.
After a short walk from the front gates, you see this spectacular scene: (pictured below)
It is not uncommon to see huge groups of school kids on a field trip when visiting Kinkaku-ji, in fact, when we visited, I counted at least 6 groups of 15 kids or more. We spent over an hour alone in the front area mainly because it was so crowded that I had to wait patiently to get good pictures but also because it was so beautiful and serene. There is plenty more to see other than the Golden Pavilion but in my opinion, none are as memorable.
Shirakawa Dori and Pontocho
After a long day of touring the sites and attractions, it is nice to just relax and be brought back in time.
Shirakawa Dori and Pontocho are 2 great places to do just that in Kyoto.
Shirakawa Dori is a small section located in the Gion district of Kyoto. From what I have read in a lot of blogs, this area is often depicted in animes and Japanese dramas because they have kept the old style feeling of the buildings and streets. We visited this area at night and with the real Geishas/Maikas and tourists dressed up as Geishas/Maikos walking the narrow streets, it was easy to imagine being in the old Kyoto days.
Pontocho is a great place to do some Geisha spotting. Similar to Shirakawa Dori, Pontocho is an alley that has been preserved. From what I saw, the shops in this alley are mainly restaurants and clubs but there are a few other stores as well. The street parallel to Pontocho also has a large number of restaurants of many cuisines.
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