I want to go back to Kyoto

When people ask me what my favourite part of Japan was during my 3-week visit, I tell them that I loved all of it, and that I really can’t pick. I loved both the traditional and weird aspect of Tokyo, the bulk of Mount Fuji and the unexpectedness of Miyajima. And it is true, I really did love every single corner of Japan which I got to visit, because everywhere had its only unique flavour. Every temple or shrine I visited has something different about it, something which I would come to remember as being specifically there.

Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan    Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan

Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto

Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan

So it’s not that Kyoto was my favourite part of Japan. It is more about the fact that Kyoto was the only place I visited where I found that I had nowhere near enough time to see it properly, and therefore, I was left craving for more. Much more.

Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan   Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan

Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan   Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan

Tofukuji Temple Zen garden, Kyoto, Japan   Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

The fact is that to really do Kyoto justice, I needed at least 5 full days, and I only had 3. Though not as big as Tokyo, its most beautiful sites are scattered around the outskirts of the city. With each area rich in things to see, and the public transport mostly consisting of buses to reach them, it takes time to get to places, and you need time to explore them.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

I remember my first day in Kyoto. I remember being on the roof of the central station, looking around and seeing only line after line of modern, ugly building. I remember thinking, seriously?? But it turned out that you need to head to the edges of the city, those areas where countryside and mountains meet, where the streets are small and full of character, and temples and shrines can be found everywhere.  And when I searched more closely, I found that even within that seemingly grey modern city, there were pockets of tradition, and street after street lined with traditional Japanese Izakaya and cute little gift stores.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan    Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

I started my first day in Kyoto with a walking tour of Tofukuji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Geisha district of Gion. Our guide, a Chinese student who had been living and studying in Japan for 6 years, taught me what the concept behind the Tofukuji temple zen garden was, with each stone, and each stroke of rake having a specific meaning. She explained how locals pray at shrines and temples, and translated my fortune from Japanese. She took me through the long corridor of Torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and told of how each Torii gate had been donated by someone or by a company over the years, gradually adding to the grandeur of the shrine.

IMG_3426 (614x461)

Gion district, Kyoto

And when the light started growing dim, she took me to Gion, the district where real geishas mingle with Japanese ladies dressed as geishas for the day. She explained how the tell-tale sign of a real geisha was the white make up on her face and down to her neck. She assured me that it was not rude to take a picture of them as their role was in part to preserve and promote Japanese culture to the outside world, but the unfortunately thing was that many tourists were clearly taking pictures of normal Japanese women dressed in geisha clothes without asking their permission, which I found exceptionally rude.

And instead of chasing geishas who were darting as quickly as possible, wooden sandals and all, out of one building and into another in the hope of getting that iconic picture, I chose to just soak up the moment. I listened to the pleasant chatter, and looked at the changing light. I watched the lanterns on the facades of the many restaurants light up, and when my stomach started emitting audible noises, I found a place to satisfy it with some great Japanese food. I needed all the energy I could get, as the next day, I had more Kyoto to explore.

Which place in the world has left you wanting more?

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-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @www.theartofslowtravel.com. All rights reserved. This is part of Travel Photo Thursday.

15 thoughts on “I want to go back to Kyoto”

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve been living in Japan for the last year and a half and am quickly approaching my move back to the US. Your post reminded me how magical Kyoto is! I’m going to squeeze one last trip to Kyoto into my time here and make sure I say a proper good-bye!

    1. Hi Angela,

      I am in love with your website. I’ve explored it a bit but need to go back. I’ve only been to Bali, which is probably the least authentic part of Indonesia, so I’ll need to go back to explore more before having a clear idea whether I like Indonesia or not.

  2. I can see why you’d love to go back to Kyoto. It looks beautiful. For me personally, I can’t have enough of South America. The culture and the scenery left me wanting more…

  3. These are all beautiful images. I prefer the traditional part of Japan too. I haven’t been to Kyoto and can certainly see why you’d love to go back. We just came back from the Bavarian region of Germany and there was so much we didn’t get to do and left me wanting more.

  4. Wanting more at the end of the trip is the sure sign of a successful trip. Your very positive spin on Japan makes me want to go. I’m like Jill and would like more of South America, especially Chile and Argentina.

  5. Kyoto looks fascinating, and I’m not surprised you want to spend more time there. So much to find out and learn about, and the architecture looks incredible. Fab photos. The Reds in Japan are truly, deeply RED aren’t they?!

  6. I left Kyoto wishing for more time, too. Fushimi Inari shrine was my absolute favorite part of the city. My kids loved the International Manga Museum. I never made it to the Gion district because overtired kids necessitated a return to the hotel instead of more sightseeing. They’re asking to go back, too.

  7. I only had five days and it still was not enough, just so much to absorb especially at change of seasons and the many festivals, I would love to go back for sakura and the spring festivals of the geishas, also when they visit the temples, priceless!

  8. I haven’t been to Japan except to run through the airport from one gate to another. I can’t wait to get there one day. Right now, though, I would go back to Paris. I am one of those who fell in love with the romance of the city!

  9. Hi Denise,
    I didn’t realize that you need that much time to soak in Kyoto. Thanks for the heads-up. I like Kyoto’s serenity and tradition that your images convey. I particularly like the photo of Tori Gate and the story behind it. Kyoto sounds very soulful. I look forward to reading more about it.

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