This is Day 2 of my 30-day blog writing streak, and it is already feeling hard. I hope that things get a little easier as I progress through the experience. This particular blog post should not feel hard because I have had the idea to write about my trip to Kyoto since I got back. I just haven’t taken the time to get some of my thoughts onto paper (or on the laptop in this situation.)
I visited Kyoto a couple of months ago. Note to self: “write about your travels immediately. You will forget some of the details of the trip.” Because it’s been a couple of months, and because so much has happened over the past two months, I know for a fact that I have forgotten some important details, so I’ll just do the best I can.
A good friend of mine and I decided to take a short trip together before we were diving into the execution of a big project that we had been working on. She and I had not traveled together, but we get along very well, and we weren’t traveling for weeks; it would just be a few days. In my recommendation, this is the perfect way to figure out if you travel well with someone. Go on a short trip and make it one that will accommodate different travel styles. I was delighted to learn that I travel very well with this person, and I now feel confident that we can take longer trips together. I am also beginning to realize that I am a pretty good travel partner as long as you don’t expect me to do the planning. I am not great at planning trips, but I am super good at showing up with a good attitude, money, and will accommodate various travel styles.
We left Okinawa early on a Monday, and our plan was to return Friday. Each of us have flexible work schedules so we could take off for the week, and this would enable us to enjoy the weekends with our husbands. Having a travel buddy who could travel during the week was a super bonus!
We flew from Naha, Okinawa to Osaka, and then we took a bus from Osaka to Kyoto. The bus was very comfortable; we did not book tickets in advance, and it was very easy to find when we arrived in Osaka. The bus ride was a little over an hour and was an enjoyable, short trip. We arrived in Kyoto mid-day, so I felt like we still had an entire day to enjoy this beautiful city. We found food and then found our AirBnB.
The AirBnB was fantastic! It was tucked away behind a shrine, which meant that each day started and ended in a spiritual space. Maybe that’s what set the tone for such a peaceful trip. It was also a leisurely 20-minute walk to the popular Gion District. In addition, we were also very close to a train station. Basically, it was perfect! The weather was spectacular, so we chose to do a lot of walking and only used the train a couple of times. (We averaged about 8-10 miles of walking a day.)
The AirBnB itself was perfect for the two if us. It would be a nice size for a small family as well. We had a nice common area, a sleep space, 2 bathrooms, and the most relaxing private outdoor space. There was even a deep tub outside that was an extra bonus to the space.
We began each morning with a leisurely walk by the river to the closest Starbucks. We never woke up to an alarm, and we never felt any obligation to begin the day super early, but our bodies consistently were ready to get up, to get moving, and to get to Starbucks as soon as it opened. We would enjoy pastries and coffee as we planned each day.
My travel partner had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do. I had a few places that I really wanted to see, but neither of us had expectations that we would see the entirety of this beautiful city. We knew that our short trip would give us the opportunity to see the highlights and that’s just about it. It would take months to experience the city to its fullest. Down each street, each alleyway, each random turn you find interesting shops, shrines, temples, and a glimpse into traditional Japanese architecture, food, and art.
Our first full day took us to the beautiful Fushimi Inari Shrine which has Over 10,000 bright orange gates. Everywhere you looked there were more torii gates. It was a magical experience.
Magical experiences make you very hungry, so after we explored Fushimi Inari, we sought out food, and boy did we find it. Oysters, oysters, oysters. They were outstanding, and because I am a terrible blogger, I don’t have a pin or location for you. I think it may have been in Nishiki Market. Once again, it’s important to document where you go as soon as you finish your trip, or you will forget. Sorry reader, I just have some mouth-watering pictures.
After enjoying oysters, sake, and browsing through some shops, we headed to Kennin-ji. “Kennin-ji was founded in 1202 CE and claims to be the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. It is considered to be one of the five most important Zen temples of Kyoto” (Wikipedia – Kennin-ji – Wikipedia). Was it peaceful? Yes. It was quiet; there were gardens, and there were not many other people there. It was so quiet; we could have been the only ones there.
The next stop would take us to Yasaka-no-Tou. This pagoda stands alone, and it has been preserved to allow each of us to experience Japan in a special way. The streets, the shops, the people who have chosen to wear traditional Japanese attire…all of it makes you feel as if you have been transported to a different time. There is nothing quite like it.
More food, more strolling the streets, and even a random adult beverage vending machine rounded out our day. Little did I know that the next day would be one of the most memorable days of my whole life.
Wake up, walk by a beautiful river, drink coffee with a good friend, and then go to a bamboo forest. Can I just do that every day? Seriously, when we showed up to the bamboo forest, I felt like a little kid. I was in awe. It literally took my breath away. Add in the most exquisite gardens, a tea house tucked away in the forest, and a nice gentleman who let my travel buddy hold his sweet puppy. Could a day get any better? I am just not sure. The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is not to be missed.
Getting blown away in a bamboo forest will make you hungry and thirsty, so sushi and sake is a MUST and is a great way to wind down from the perfect day.
Wake up, stroll, drink coffee, and then find more exquisite temples, gardens, and shops. We saved this biggie for later in the trip, and it was the only time that I was overwhelmed with the number of people. I would highly recommend getting to Pagoda at Kiyomizudera Temple as early as possible. There are many reasons why so many people visit this temple, and it is not to be missed, but when I say a lot of people. I mean A LOT OF PEOPLE. “Kiyomizu-dera, otherwise known as the ‘Temple of the Pure Water Spring’, is a Buddhist temple. It was founded in 778 CE. The Koyasu pagoda was built in the early 17th century CE.” (Koyasu Pagoda, Kiyomizu-dera (Illustration) – World History Encyclopedia)
Another must see is Sanjusangendo Temple. “Sanjusangendo is a Buddhist temple which is part of the Rengeo-in monastery. It was founded in 1164 CE and is famous for its impressive dimensions. It has 1,001 golden Buddha figures and 28 guardian statues which stand inside it. The temple is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.” (Sanjusangendo – World History Encyclopedia)
Seeing Sanjusangendo was the last of our adventures. We found more oysters, more sake, and did more shopping before we headed back to our AirBnb to pack for our trip home. The next morning, we took the train back to Osaka and flew home. In just a few days, we learned a lot about ourselves, about Japan, and had the most memorable trip. I went to Kyoto over two decades ago, and I remember that trip being a memorable one as well. I titled this blog Kyoto in the fall, but in all honesty, if you are seeking out fall foliage, you will want to go later than we did. We were there the last week of September, and the leaves were thinking about changing colors, but they had not yet turned the vibrant colors that you may see in mid-late October. I hope to get one more trip to Kyoto in before I leave Japan. I would LOVE to see it in the springtime. It is truly a magnificent city.