So this is my last post about Japan, I promise, for those of you who are getting sick about me going on and on about a trip I came back from 2 weeks ago. Because of the wonder of scheduled posting, as you read this I am actually in Salt Lake City, UT, at the Alt Summit (a blogger conference). And then I'm on to LA so now I can go on and on about those trips next. Anyway back to Japan. Here is just a short summary of the things I recommend for anyone visiting Kyoto:
I prefer the Hyatt Regency Kyoto because it's a beautiful place that really embodies the peace and sophistication of Kyoto. It's located in a quiet part of town but there's still attractions right next door, Sanjusangendo (temple of 1000 Buddhas) and the Kyoto National Museum (where you can go to the museum cafe for breakfast at 9:15AM). They also have a buffet breakfast that's pretty good, and if you have jet-lag I recommend just getting up, instead of tossing and turning in bed, and go to the breakfast early (like 6:30AM). Then you might get window seat that looks down on their Zen garden. It's worth it. But if the Hyatt is not available, I would try any of the hotels around Kyoto station. Kyoto Station is really the hub of Kyoto and you can really get anywhere from there whether by train or bus. Plus there's lots of shops and restaurants there.
-Walk around the Gion district and you might catch a glimpse of a geisha. Also there's some cute stores and very old traditional Japanese houses there.
-For some more modern shopping, you can go to Shijo-dori. It kind of feels like Tokyo shopping so if you don't care for crowds I would recommend shopping at:
-Kyoto Station underground. Kyoto Station is huge with both an older and newer section and it's very easy to get lost (we did), so just be careful of the signs. There are modern department stores as well as a lot of cute Japanese boutiques.
Some of the things I bought (not all bought in Kyoto but most of it was):
Top picture: bamboo grater brush (to get all those small bits of garlic, ginger, or daikon off your grater), bamboo tongs, Laduree macaroons (from Ginza, not Kyoto), fake lashes (I think Japanese brands are some of the best ones), prayer bead bracelet, little monk head dish, Comme de Garcons clover pouch, wooden animal spoons, Murakami can of candy, coffee scooper in the shape of a house, bamboo butter knife, and tape hook, a plastic hook that looks like a peeling piece of tape (I'm using one now and it's pretty cute).
Botton picture: Kyoto's special mochi dessert, wasabi doritos (they were yummy), my favorite brand of mints (they're small but powerful in a really easy to carry case), senbei from Fushimi Inari, spicy Kit Kats (they use togarashi, or Japanese chili pepper), and shrimp crackers.
There are so many things to do/places to see in Kyoto. This is just a short list but it's a good place to start.
- Fushimi Inari: If you can only go to one place, then I would say this is a must see. This is the place with all the orange/red gates (cover photo, Kyoto Day 3).
- Kinkakuji: The golden pavilion (Kyoto Day 2)
-Ryo-an ji: The epitome of a Japanese rock garden (Kyoto Day 2)
-Sanjusangendo: Temple of 1000 Buddhas
-Kiyomuzu-dera: A beautiful large temple on the mountain built around a waterfall. The waters are supposed to impart long-life and good luck if you drink it. The last time I was in Kyoto, with Brian, we were there at the same time as a large tour group of Chinese tourists. They were holding up the line to the waterfall because they were trying to bottle this stuff, as in squat on the floor as they tried to fill multiple small plastic bottles with an unwieldy water ladle. Free souvenirs, I guess?
-Ginkakuji: Named the silver temple, but it's not. I've never been there but I've heard people say it's pretty nice.
- Kyoto National Museum (pictured below): They have a great collection of ancient Japanese art, from Buddhist statues, to past Emperors' calligraphy scrolls, kimonos and Japanese ink paintings and it's all housed in their new modern and simple building. They also still have exhibits in their original 1895 building (done in a very European style) if you're lucky enough to catch them.
-The Miho Museum: This is something I learned about after I came back so I never got a chance to go, but this will be #1 on my list of things to go to when I come back to Kyoto. Thanks to my friend Colleen for the recommendation!
-Other museums/places that look interesting: Kyoto International Manga Museum (if you're into manga), Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (film set for traditional Japanese TV shows), and the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. These are all places I haven't yet been to, but might check out on my next trip.
I don't really have any food recommendations since I just mostly ate when and where it was convenient (and most of the time you can't really go wrong no matter which restaurant you pick). But I would recommend:
-Dining al fresco at one of the many restaurants that line the Kamo river (Kamogawa) [talked about in Kyoto Day 1]. The view is beautiful and it was fun dining on traditional Japanese food Japanese style (aka on the floor) though you do have to constantly readjust so your legs don't fall asleep (picture above).
-Eating from the vendors outside of Fushimi Inari (great Japanese snack foods) and don't forget to get some senbei at the store near the train station (Kyoto Day 3)
Well that was a super long post but I hope anyone going to Kyoto in the future will find these tips useful!