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Japanese art, culture, temples and architectures are beautiful things that exist in the world, and Kyoto encompasses all of them. Kyoto is located in Honshu Island, the biggest island in Japan, and it takes around 4 hours by Shinkansen train from Tokyo. Personally, Kyoto is still my favourite city in Japan and I will never get bored of this place, there are always something new to explore each time I go there.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is the most visited place in Kyoto by tourist. The temple area is located up on the hill, built from giant wood log construction. Many Japanese people come to visit and pray in the temple during New Year, however it can be quite crowded as well during regular days. Hand-made souvenir, tea and food shops line up the street towards the temple, that will distract all of your attention to stop and look inside. Make sure that you would not miss the temple! Japanese usually sell things with very nice and immaculate packaging. The shop owners are generally very kind and polite towards the customers.
From the temple, you can see beautiful natural surroundings and architecture in a very authentic Japanese style. Here you can pray for your future and life in Japanese style, more over you can test your fortune and and see how’s your life is gonna be. If you go here in spring or autumn, the trees become colourful and the place turns into a lovely scenery.
For more nature and architecture, I visited Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a bamboo forrest with the beautiful pathway which is the paradise for nature photographers. Some of the spots are frequently used for pre-wedding photography with stunning bamboo trees background. You can stroll along the pathway by walking or by a traditional carriage transportation, pulled by strong Japanese man. If you visit Arashiyama, drop into the preserved authentic Japanese architecture, Tenryu-ji Temple. This is the area of old temples, where opens for tourists and locals to pray.
One of the most instagramed sight in Kyoto is Fushimi-Inari Shrine, where the row of popular red Shrines / gates were dedicated to the gods of rice and sake. I felt a unique sense of place inside the endless arcade, with Japanese writings are carved beautifully in each gate. You would not see these writings when you walk from the beginning to the end of the arcade, but you can see them only from one side when you were going back to the first place.
Kyoto is the city with more than just incredible sight-seeings, treat yourself with some good Japanese food in some local restaurants. My choice would be Teppanyaki, where the chefs show their skill and cook the dishes (meat, vegetables, and seafood) in front of the customers. Stroll along the small Ponto-cho road in the evening to find many nice local restaurants, with many lanterns lighten up the street. I love this street in the evening, and dinner would be more delightful after being tempted by the scent of cooking along the road.
Staying in Kyoto:
For low budget travellers/ backpackers: Piece Hostel Kyoto, or try the new experience of staying in a capsule (9 Hours Capsule Hotel Kyoto or Sauna and Capsule Hotel Rumor Plaza,).
For middle budget travellers: Kyoto Itoya Hotel (located strategically in the city centre)
For high budget travellers/ family: Kanra Hotel (a spacious Japanese style hotel with tatami flooring)
For staying in Ryokan (Japanese house): Gion Hatanaka
Day 1 : Arrive in Kansai International Airport — heading to Kyoto — try Onsen (Japanese hot spring, usually provided in your hotel) before you go to sleep.
Day 2 : Kiyomizu-Dera Temple (Kyoto transportation depends on buses, take bus number 100 or 206, and stop in Kiyomizu-michi, continue walking uphill to the temple about 15 minutes walk, spend 3-4 hours to explore the temple and go shopping) — around Spring to Autumn, you can book for Geisha dance performance in the evening for 1 hour long, to accompany your dinner time.
Day 3 : Arashiyama Bamboo Groove (take bus number 11 or 28, stop in arashiyama, spend around 1-2 hours to explore the bamboo forrest area) — walk to Tenryu-ji Temple (spend around 30 minutes) — go for souvenir shopping in Arashiyama? — continue to Fushimi Inari Shrine (take JR train if you already have JR pass, spend around 2 hours to explore the place) — heading back to Kyoto, stroll along Ponto-cho street in the evening and find many good Japanese restaurants for dinner.
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