Kyoto is often considered the historical centre of Japan – with plenty of shrines, temples, and other traditional places. In fact, Kyoto was previously the capital of Japan before moving to Tokyo at the end of the Edo period (1868). But even in the present day, Kyoto has maintained its historical beauty and has become one of the top tourist destinations in the country.
However, there is so much to see and do in Kyoto that it’s difficult to pack everything into a three day weekend – let alone a one day trip. Therefore, it’s a good idea to carefully plan any trip you make to this city.
For my own experience, I decided to split up my days according to the region: starting with Eastern Kyoto, moving to the North, West, and South – all of which was stretched over three days. And because I managed to do so much, I’ve decided to report back on my trip one day at a time… So, check out my first day in Kyoto: a wet and wild experience.
Day 1: Eastern Kyoto
After arriving in Kyoto on the Shinkansen (bullet train) in early spring, I decided to set out and explore the city immediately. And even though it was bucketing down with rain, I was not deterred – heading off towards the Eastern part of Kyoto:
Made up of half a dozen temple buildings (including the Silver Pavilion), a stunning moss covered garden and a dry-sand zen garden, Ginkakuji is certainly a beautiful place to visit – even in the pouring rain. The public are allowed to wander around the pathways that wind their way through the unique dry sand and moss gardens – allowing gorgeous views of the temple from every angle. Unfortunately, one cannot enter the buildings, but they are still sights to behold…
Despite its nickname, Ginkakuji does not actually contain any silver. In fact, there are two theories about how it goes its name: 1) because it was modeled after the famous Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), and 2) because the moon shining off its dark exterior gave it a silvery appearance. Either way, Ginkakuji is still a stunning temple and should be one anyone’s travel list.
After leaving Ginkakuji, I made my way to Kodaiji (高台寺) – a temple that’s famous in the cherry blossom and autumn seasons for its stunning illuminations. And during autumn, the illuminations become perfectly reflected in the temple’s pond:
Unfortunately, because it was early in the season, the cherry blossoms there had not bloomed yet and I was unable to get this view first-hand. But luckily, Kodaiji is still a stunning temple – with beautifully raked gravel zen gardens. The main zen garden itself is well-known for its lone cherry blossom tree that looks over the ocean-patterned gravel.
After a long wet day of exploring Eastern Kyoto, I realized it was time for dinner and headed to a local izakaya (a Japanese-style bar). Wearing my Totoro hoodie, the majority of the staff were very friendly towards me, even though I was unable to communicate back to them in Japanese. And feeling comfortable in this cheerful atmosphere, I was also able to taste a local delicacy: raw deer. Now, while in South Africa, we’re used to eating antelope, I had personally near tried it raw… and I gotta say – it was delicious! A definite must-try.
Feeling full and content after a busy day, I headed to my hotel – thinking about what Day 2 and Day 3 would bring…
If you’re interested in more stories about Kyoto, or you’re just looking for sightseeing ideas, then check out the related blog posts below: