Explore Kyoto: Japan’s Old Capital

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years before it moved to Tokyo in the mid 19th century. Its rich history and culture saturates the city, even as high rises and new developments continue to emerge. A portion of the city is reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution that swept over Japan in the 1800s. Dig deeper and you’ll find much older neighborhoods – houses with wooden walls, thatched roofs and tiny, tiny doors (it’s been said that people in the olden days were much shorter and smaller).

One of the best things about Kyoto is its close proximity to a plethora of world-famous tourist destinations, including Fushimi Inari-Taisha, Nara and Arashiyama. These places are accessible by train or bus.

Inside the City: Temples, Castles, Shopping

There are over 1600 temples in Kyoto alone. Add a couple of castles, historical neighborhoods, a vibrant shopping scene, and you’ve got years worth of adventure packed inside one single city. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to visit every temple in Kyoto (that would be a very exciting project to add on our to-do list)! If anyone has succeeded in visiting all 1600 temples, comment down below! We’d love to hear your story.

In this post, we will deconstruct the city’s main attractions: Gion, Shirakawa Canal, Kinkaku-Ji Temple and Nijo Castle. For now, enjoy some of the pictures we took in Kyoto!

Nijo Castle, Kyoto

Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto

In Shirakawa Canal

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

Our first visit to the Fushimi Inari shrine left us feeling disgruntled; there were too many visitors milling around the beautiful shrine at the base of Mount Inari. Climbing the mountain with a sea of tourists was a no-no, so we returned to the train station dejected. On our way back to Kyoto, we met a couple of Japanese students from Tokyo who shared a little secret and told us how to experience the real magic of the shrine. Boy, were we glad that we listened to their advice! Our second visit to the shrine was like a dream.

Keep an eye out for a post on our magical day at Fushimi Inari-Taisha. We won’t spoil the story for you, but expect a three-hour hike, sunrise at the summit, wild cats, a fox, a delightful conversation in limited Japanese and 10,000 other reasons why you should also try this out!

Fushimi-Inari at Dawn

Fushimi Inari at Dawn

Day Trip to Nara

You may have heard fascinating stories about Nara’s Deer Park. Here are some of the information we gathered prior to our trip from friends and family who have visited:

  • The deer walk unafraid among pedestrians.
  • Sometimes they visit stores and restaurants.
  • They let you feed them (and they will bow before taking the food from your hands, because that’s just polite).
  • They can grow to be as tall as a grown man.
  • There are as many deer as people in the city.
  • The city’s mascot is a deer (yes, in Japan, most cities have mascots).

Some of them were true, some not so much. Read our post on Nara to see which is which!

Deer at Nara

Deer Park, Nara

Nara Deer Park

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove paints a beautiful picture of old Japan. Located an hour away by train from Kyoto, it leaves the old capital vibe and enters a peaceful world of rice fields, shrines, mountains, bamboo forests and a quiet, sleepy town. On afternoons, the town awakens and burst into life with food carts, tourists and professional photographers traveling from all parts of the world to capture the beauty of the bamboo forest. Take a look at the pictures below and you’ll see why!

Arashiyama at Dawn

In Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Lake near Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

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Alysta Lim and Athena Lim

35 thoughts on “Explore Kyoto: Japan’s Old Capital

  1. Pingback: “Deer” Nara, We Will be Back | mypassengerdiaries

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