Kyoto Marvels

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Accomodations, Advice, Asia, Kyoto, Japan, Story

I will never tire of Kyoto!  Most people head to Osaka and do a side trip to this charming city but for me, it’s actually the opposite.  Kyoto is the destination.

Kyoto is a romantic city that depicts Japan’s rich heritage balanced with a spectacular food scene (there are a number of Michelin Starred restaurants – from traditional to french… to fusion) and modern novelties only the Japanese can think of.   We have gone back a number of times to enjoy a few attractions to tick of our bucket list but there’s always a new itinerary to follow as we plan a visit there. Check Out http://www.insidekyoto.com

For groups heading to Kyoto from Osaka, you can contact: Charter Bus & Limousine Japan info@charterbus-limousine.com or Satoko Kurada kyototravelcoordinator@gmail.com. We get to maximise our day by leaving our bags in the bus as we explore Kyoto while in transit. It is the most convenient way to see more without the rush to catch trains, check in and stress of carrying our belongings.  The same  arrangement can be planned as you head back to Osaka.

Kyoto Marvels:

Heian Shrine

Heian-jungu Shrine is one of the most important and visually impressive Shinto shrines in Kyoto. It’s worth a visit, particularly on Shinto festival days. It was built relatively recently in 1895 on the occasion of the 1,100th anniversary of the Heian Capital foundation. It is dedicated to the first and last emperors that reigned from Kyoto, Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei. The shrine buildings are a partial replica of the Imperial Palace of the Heian Period, but only about two thirds of the original buildings in scale.

Kiyomizu Dera Temple

Kiyomizudera, known as the “Pure Water Temple” is one of the most celebrated buddhist temples of Japan. It derives its name from the Otowa Waterfall, where it was established. Its waters are divided into three separate streams, and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream’s water is said to have a different benefit, namely to cause longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life. However, drinking from all three streams is considered greedy.

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Kiyomizudera is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. The stage affords visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of color in spring and fall, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance.
The temple is very popular with visitors and has something of a festival atmosphere. Vendors are everywhere selling talismans, incense, and “omikuji” (paper fortunes). Pilgrims pay their homage, young people come looking for good fortune in love, visitors come to see the sights, and all fall under the spell of Kyoto’s timeless temple.

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Just downhill from and slightly to the north of Kiyomizu-dera, you will find one of Kyoto’s loveliest restored neighbourhoods, the Ninen-zaka–Sannen-zaka area. These two charming streets are lined with old wooden houses, traditional shops and restaurants.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

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Kinkaku-ji, the famed “Golden Pavilion,” is Kyoto’s most iconic sight, rising above its reflecting pond like an apparition. The Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Fushimi – Inari – Taisha Shrine

The magical, seemingly unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through the hills behind Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine makes it one of the most popular shrines in Japan. The shrine is dedicated to the God of Rice and Sake in the 8th Century.  It also features dozens of Fox statues – seen as messengers to the gods of grain, Inari.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Tenryu-ji Temple

The name Tenryuji means, “Heavenly Dragon Temple,” and it was built after a shogun who dreamed of a dragon rising from a nearby river, which was taken to mean that the recently-deceased Emperor Go-Daigo was not resting peacefully. The temple with its garden was built to placate his spirit. It is now the headquarter of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.
The main attraction of Tenryu-ji Temple is the Zen garden dating back to the 14th century. The garden features a large pond which catches the reflection of the maple trees and large rough-cut rocks on the periphery. It also makes use of “borrowed scenery” from the nearby hills of Arashiyama, which appear to be the next tier of the garden. Many elements of this garden were prototypes for later gardens built elsewhere.

Nijo – Jo Castle

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Nijo-jo Castle demonstrates the power that the Shoguns (military warlords) wielded over Japan for much of its history. You can enter the Ninomaru Palace, which is famous for its “nightingale floors” (squeaky floors that would alert occupants to the presence of intruders). The decorative panels and carvings here – almost rococo in their flamboyance – reflect the enormous power and attitudes of the warlords who occupied the castle. After touring the Ninomaru Palace, take a leisurely stroll through the wonderful Seiryu-en Garden, which surrounds the buildings of the castle.

Gion District

Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district.  It is filled with shops, restaurants and teahouses, where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain.
Cultural shows are held everyday at Gion Corner at the end of Hanami-koji.  The show is an introduction to several traditional Japanese arts and include short performances of a tea ceremony, ikebana, bunraku, Kyogen comic plays and dances performed by real maikos.

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market is known as “Kyoto’s Pantry”.  It is Kyoto’s largest traditional food market. While modern food shops and souvenir shops are starting to move in, there are still enough traditional shops to give you a glimpse of what a traditional shotengai (shopping street) must have looked like. All the major ingredients of traditional Kyoto cuisine are on display here: tsukemono (Japanese pickles), fresh tofu, Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables), wagashi (Japanese sweets), tea, and fresh fish and shellfish. Some shops sell takeaway food like skewers of yakitori or sashimi, and a few sit down restaurants can be found amid the shops.

Kyoto Station

The gateway to Kyoto is more than just a train station: It’s an attraction in itself, packed with shops, restaurants and things to see.

Kyoto Eats:

There is a whole list of Eats in Kyoto and how heavenly it could be if we had all the time and room in our bellies for it!   http://www.insidekyoto.com/best-restaurants-in-kyoto      But the thrill in travel are these pleasant discoveries and bursts of flavours that will forever stay in your memory banks which nudges a smile of that contentment.

Moritaya is a restaurant that you can easily pass without being aware of it. It is a simple entrance along a row of unassuming establishments on the 11F of the Isetann – Kyoto Station.  We were welcomed with the traditional Japanese politeness and lovely manners. The women wore beautiful kimonos, lovely styled hair and matching make-up. We were led to our table with a picturesque view of the of Kyoto Tower. Our host prepared the sukiyaki platters for us.  The presentation of the food, the ceremony of serving the food and the quality of the beef and vegetables were just outstanding.  It was pricey but we couldn’t resist another serving.
It was a long day until we checked into our Hotel.  Touzan is an easy choice for guests in the Hyatt Regency Kyoto.  The food is good and the menu is creative. The staff are attentive and very helpful. Try the sake tasting on offer.
Arashiyama Udon Ozuru was enjoyable.  Their udon had the al dente texture with a very tasty soup base. The tempura udon I ordered came with 2 large ebi tempura, and 4 pieces of assorted vegetables. The tempura was also of top grade quality, where the oil and batter wasn’t soggy or soft. It was perfectly crunchy and light, even when soaked for a couple minutes as you tend to do with tempura udon.  Good reasonable prices for great food in a highly trafficked tourist area. About 1800 yen for my tempura udon set with a pork rice bowl and chawan mushi, which was quite tasty as well. Only 900 yen for a simple gyu udon or something similar.

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Jyunidanya along Gion is perhaps one of the more traditional style restaurants in Kyoto the ambience is impressive. It serves mainly shabu-shabu and sukiyaki but also offers other Kyoto delicacies. They have English explanations inside the menu together with pictures. Rooms are typically zashiki Japanese style with tatami mats, but every room exudes a unique character as each is decorated by works of famous Japanase artists such as ceramic artist Kawai Kanjiro.

More Kyoto Marvels

So much more to Venture in Kyoto:  http://www.insidekyoto.com/kyoto-walking-itineraries.    Even our kids are excited to see and learn more about this decadent place.

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