Japan Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

Our Guide to Kyoto, Japan

Accommodations

Kyoto Ibis Styles Hotel

Convenient location as it is right next to Kyoto JR station and extremely budget friendly. Another great aspect of this hotel is the coin laundry  and ice machine, located on the same floor where they serve breakfast (not complimentary).

Hotel Mume

Voted as one of the most luxurious and best service in the entire country, Hotel Mume is a hidden gem. From the second you enter this boutique inn the staff absolutely pampers you. Trained with the mindset of European maids/butlers, blended with traditional Japanese ryokan characteristics, Mume’s crowning jewel is their customer service.

In the evenings before we left out, the staff was sure to ask us where we were going or if we needed any suggestions on places to eat or visit. The staff would make calls and reservations that allowed us to spend less time planning and more time enjoying ourselves. Another greatly appreciated effort made by the staff was when they printed a map with directions to a desired destination, and provided a picture of what it looked like. Mume also offers a complimentary happy hour with beverages and snacks every afternoon and a delicious breakfast each morning.

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Entrance of Hotel Mume

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Dining area of Hotel Mume

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Complimentary breakfast at Hotel Mume

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Hotel Mume happy hour

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Bar area

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Our bathroom

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Bathroom

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Bedroom

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Bedroom

DAY ONE

Sanjusangendo Hall

If you are looking for a tranquil place with spectacular beauty during your time in Kyoto we highly recommend visiting Sanjusangendo Hall. Famous for it’s 1,000 Buddha statues and serene garden nearby it is well worth the 600 JPY.

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As you are not allowed to take photographs while inside the hall, we did not take this photo. This was scanned from a postcard set we purchased while visiting Sanjusangendo Hall. We merely wanted you to be able to see the magnificence of the 1,000 Buddhas.

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Restaurant: Sobanomi Yoshimura: Great noodle shop that offers fresh-made soba or udon noodles at a reasonable price.

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We loved these hand created soba noodles hot and cold.

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Nishiki Market

The character alone of the Nishiki Market is worth going for. This is the perfect place to taste test many various Japanese foods as well as many small shops and restaurants.

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Japan is known for it’s adorable sweets!

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One of the strangest street foods! This little octopus has a cooked quail egg put into it’s head. It makes for a sweet, salty, and strange tasting experience.

GEAR Art Complex 1928 Show

When we planned out our trip to Kyoto, the GEAR Art Complex was an attraction we added last minute because we had an evening open. When we arrived at the location we were a tad early and enjoyed shopping in the stores nearby.

The show is on the third floor of the 1928 building, above a bar and coffee shop. There were plenty of signs and directions that got us to where we needed to be. The venue is very personal, the seats are all close and I don’t think the venue could hold much more than 50 people. When we sat down they said we could take some photos before the show, but asked that we put our cameras away when the show started. Then they proceeded to had us a clipboard with a short plot outline and safety goggles. When I asked the hostess what the goggles were for she just smiled at me and said I would soon find out.

The amount of detail in the props and plot is astounding. However, the defining element of the GEAR Art Complex show is the passion of the actors and actress. I felt they put 110% into their performance, and were able to share that energy with the audience. It was incredible how so many emotions were conveyed and not a single word was spoken.

TRAVEL TIP: We went to a 7:00 showing and had previously reserved tickets. You are able to pick them up an hour beforehand. The show itself is 75 minutes long.

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Restaurant: Kanidoraku Kyoto main- Overall we were pleased with our visit here. The staff was friendly and the restaurant itself was of a “modernized” traditional Japanese style restaurant. We went after going to the Gear Art Complex show around 8:30pm so the restaurant was winding down and not as busy, otherwise I would suggest you make a reservation because it is normally packed! We ordered a crab hot pot and it very delicious but it wasn’t a lot of crab for the price.

TRAVEL TIP: note that this restaurant requires the removal of your shoes and has traditional style Japanese seating.

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King Crab hot pot | Kyoto, Japan

DAY TWO

Fushimi Inari Shrine

When we first planned our visit to Japan, Fushimi Inari was the site I (Logan) was most looking forward to. The earliest structures of Fushimi Inari are recorded to have been built around 711 A.D. The beauty and ambiance of this shrine spans over a breathtaking 10,000 orange gates, or Torii (鳥居), that envelope a path that winds over 2.5 miles up the Inari mountain.

While we were hiking up the path (which is estimated to take 2 hours to reach the top at a moderate pace) we stopped to talk to some locals who told us of one of the folklore of the shrine. They told us it is commonly believed that making the journey to the top of the mountain brings good fortune and longevity. I highly recommend to visit this fantastic cultural site as early as you can, because it becomes quite busy as the day continues on.

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Kiyomizu-dera temple

Taking a scenic route from the Fushimi Inari Shrine we stumbled across a sombering yet beautiful street of family shrines and tombstones while walking to the Kiyomizu-dera temple. Upon arriving it seemed like it would be like any other shrine or temple however you can see from our photos that the views were astonishing.

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Sannezaka Ninezaka

Overall I’d have to say that this historic area was intriguing to see because of the historic streets and buildings. But the downfall is how unbelievably crowded it is due to the traffic from the Kiyomizu-dera temple. It is a huge a tourist hotspot, which was to be expected but we wouldn’t suggest buying souvenirs here due to the overpriced items due the tourism.

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Must do: try every crazy ice cream flavor in Japan! Even the Black Sesame.

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The streets were crowded in this famous tourist area. We found that most of the shops here were highly priced in comparison to some of the other stores we visited.

Restaurant: Kikaru | while walking through Sannezaka Ninezaka we began window shopping for a place to have lunch. Kikaru happened to be close and their outdoor menu looked appetizing. They had many selections that we had not seen before on other menus like the shrimp tempura roll!

Kenninji-temple

A lesser known and less crowded temple complete with beautiful paintings and zen garden.

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JR Kyoto station

That evening we went back to the Kyoto JR station by our hotel and appreciated the architecture of this public transit and the views of Kyoto tower.

DAY THREE

Monkey Park Iwatayama

Some things you should know before visiting…

1) This isn’t just a park to view monkeys. It also has the most amazing skyline view of Kyoto, so even just for that, it would be a good place to visit.

2) It is about a 20 minute mountain hike that can be a little steep at times so make sure you bring water and comfortable shoes. If you do get tired there are many “resting areas” along the trail.

3) This would be a terrific attraction for kids, but please note, you are not allowed to touch or pet the monkeys. Some of the kids we saw there were a little young to understand that.

4) For only 100¥ you can get a cup of food to feed the monkeys inside the air-conditioned resting room area.

Read more about our experience here.

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Tenryuji Temple

This temple consists of two parts, the temple itself and the gardens. The garden itself is very pristine and beautiful. There are a few seating areas to enjoy the tranquil scenery. If you are visiting Arashiyama (the bamboo forest) you will most likely stumble upon this temple.

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Arashiyama

A gorgeous bamboo forest. While walking through Arashiyama you will stumble upon many temples and gardens.

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Okochisanso Garden

Do not let the entrance fee of 1,000 JPY scare you away from this unbelievable gem. The gardens itself are lovely as well as the gorgeous views of the mountains nearby. At the end of your visit you are served complimentary green tea and a biscuit cookie.

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Nijo Castle

This history behind Nijo Castle is very interesting along with the amazing paintings and “nightingale” flooring. Make sure visit early in the day so you can take a proper amount of time visiting the castle and the grounds.

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Restaurant: Menbakaichidai – When we first arrived at Menbakaichidai, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We were asked if we wanted fire ramen, or other ramen when we entered and of course we had to go with the fire ramen. When we finally had the opportunity to eat our dish, we were completely blown away. Read more about our experience here.

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Making new friends 🙂

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Fire Ramen!

DAY FOUR

The morning of June 15th we decided to shop for yukata and other gifts in various stores near the 1928 building. Our favorite stores being Bentendou and Kyotoya NY that sold gently used clothing, yukata/kimono, and obi.

Restaurant: Chojiro, Shijo-Kiyamachi – This sushi restaurant has the option of either the traditional conveyor belt or separate seating where you order sushi from a tablet. This was a nice option for lunch because we were able to order each type of nigiri a la carte and as much as we wanted (priced per order).

Restaurant: Karafuneya Coffee shop Sanjo Main shop – Parfait shop – this incredible parfait shop had a selection of over 100 ice-cream parfaits. While most of the menu was the many options for dessert, there were also a few options for lunch items and beverages.

Restaurant: Chao Chao Sanjo Kimyamachi – the best gyoza we had in Japan!

DAY FIVE

Restaurant: Shinshindo Sanjo Kawaramachi | don’t let the inexpensive prices deceive you! The breakfast portions at this French inspired bakery were quite large!

 

Toraya Ichijo

This tea house is located down the street from the sweet store of the same name. Toraya is a tea house that offers beautifully crafted wagashi (Japanese sweets) and various teas, that you can enjoy either inside or by sitting outside in the garden.

Restaurant: Omen Nippon – Recommended by the staff at Hotel Mume, this udon shop was very close by and had delicious noodles and great views.

On this evening, we had the most amazing experience we couldn’t have imagined for our trip to Japan. Miyazawa-san (from Menbakaichidai) invited us over to his home for a lovely evening of sushi, drinks, new friends, and some impromptu singing and cake for Logan’s belated birthday. We are thankful for these new friendships.

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DAY SIX

Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Temple)

We had heard about this iconic temple based on other travel reviews and upon arriving in Kyoto and while it was the most crowded attraction we visited, the temple itself was beautiful. We recommend that if you are only spending a weekend in Kyoto, add this to your itinerary, plan to be there early in the morning. While we were there we tried a strawberry shaved ice with mochi from a vendor.

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Kallsy received this beautiful hand drawn fan from a local school student.

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Japanese Shaved Ice: strawberry, coconut milk, and mochi.

Imayima Shrine

A local shrine recommended to us by our friends that live in Kyoto. It had a few beautiful bridges, and was nice to explore because there were no tourists when we visited.

Koto-in

A garden and temple tucked away in a more quiet sector of Kyoto. Similar to Imayima, it was especially enjoyable due to not having a lot of tourist or other people around while we walked around the grounds.

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Gion

That evening, being our last, we decided to dress in our yukata while visiting Gion (the Geisha district) and for our dinner plans at Wabiya Korekido.

Restaurant: Wabiya Korekido (Gion Hanamikoji Honten) We wanted to dine somewhere in the historic Gion and decided to drop in to Wabiya Korekido based on a recommendation from Hotel Mume. Keep in mind that Wabiya is a pretty popular place and there are a limited number of seats so be mindful of a potential wait. This restaurant has an English menu for those so inclined, and you order each “stick” of yakitori a la carte. This format is nice because it allows you to order various types, and as much as you like.

A few words of wisdom:
1) the prices aren’t ridiculous but they are on the higher side and can add up quickly if you don’t keep an eye on it.
2) The most expensive dish is described by what we thought was containing a rare cheese, in actuality the entire yakitori was only cheese. Granted, it was delicious cheese it really had us laughing when they brought out a plate of skewered cheese!


Kyoto will always hold a special place in our hearts as we fell in love with the culture and serenity of one of the most iconic places in Japan. It is a city full of history and many Japanese World Heritage Sites.
Our next stop on our trip Hiroshima.

Other Travel Resources:
Looking for a one-month itinerary in Japan? Check this out!
Have only two days in Kyoto? ←This should do the trick!

 

 

 

A complete itinerary for 6 days in Kyoto, Japan www.pagesoftravel.org

15 Comments

  • Reply
    Osaka, Japan | Pages of Travel
    January 11, 2016 at 5:04 AM

    […] After a delicious meal we headed back to pack our bags for our next stop, Kyoto! (click here to read more) […]

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    January 24, 2016 at 4:22 AM

    These photos have spurred me on for our week in Kyoto or Osaka in March …. Looks simply stunning. Thank you. We have done no planning at all yet and realise it is the busy time. If we enjoy it half as much as you appear to, can’t wait! Cheers, Karen

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      January 24, 2016 at 12:01 PM

      Karen,
      Thank you so much for your comment! If there is anything at all you have questions about feel free to let us know! Planning for Japan can be intimidating but it is very much worth it.
      -Pages of Travel

  • Reply
    Our Thoughts On Monkey Park Iwatayama | Pages of Travel
    October 2, 2016 at 4:57 PM

    […] To view our complete day-by-day Kyoto itinerary click here. […]

  • Reply
    Osaka, Japan | Pages of Travel
    October 23, 2016 at 8:55 PM

    […] After a delicious meal we headed back to our ryokan to pack our bags for our next stop, Kyoto! […]

  • Reply
    10 of the Wackiest Foods to Try From Around the World | Pages of Travel
    November 7, 2016 at 11:36 AM

    […] vendors are often known for their interesting local cuisine, while walking through the Nishiki Market in Kyoto we couldn’t help but be intrigued. These Tako Tamago are quite literally a glazed tiny […]

  • Reply
    ivmalaric
    January 16, 2017 at 11:26 AM

    The soup is the best! !!

  • Reply
    Romy
    January 16, 2017 at 12:40 PM

    Wow, awesome photos! Kiyomizu-dera temple is my favorite! Also the inside of hotel mume is not what you’d expect if you see the outside. A good surprise:)

  • Reply
    Julie Cao
    January 20, 2017 at 4:37 PM

    It seems you have spent most your Day 5 just eating great Japanese food and but they looks so delicious! Heard Kyoto is a beautiful place but do not know there are so much to offer, and the 100 ice cream parfait sounds crazy! What is your favorite ice cream there?

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      January 21, 2017 at 1:37 PM

      You’re right Julie! We ate so much food that day and relaxed at the tea house and a friends house. We had a few “travel fails” that day when we tried to attend festivals only to arrive to all of them as they were packing up! The 100 ice cream was insane. I wonder who actually orders that?! I would say the matcha and the lychee ice creams were favorites of mine. Black sesame was a surprisingly tasteful flavor as well. 🙂

  • Reply
    kallsypage
    January 21, 2017 at 1:38 PM

    Thank you Romy! We tried to make this extremely comprehensive as it can be hard to plan for long-term travel in any place. Hotel Mume was our favorite place while visiting Japan. It was rather luxurious. 🙂

  • Reply
    postcardsfromivi
    January 21, 2017 at 4:17 PM

    Fantastic guide! Japanese food looks delicious. I’ve never been to Japan but it is surely an interesting country.

  • Reply
    Travel tips
    January 23, 2017 at 3:16 AM

    Kyoto looks peaceful and organized, i only went to Narita and from there to Tokyo but honestly i couldn t find so delicious food like you posted, i couldn’ t even find icecream there, for me it was difficult cause i couldn’t find people speaking English so i got lost before i even take the metro. Anyway, your post is great i like that you had complimentary breakfast haha (i love those). Looking forward for your next adventures !

  • Reply
    asoulwindow
    January 28, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    I am going to attend a festival hosted by Japan tourism board in New Delhi, India day after tomorrow. Japan has always fascinated me as a nation. I have never been there but I hope to make it there soon. Kyoto interests me particularly, more so after reading your information packed blog.

  • Reply
    One Day in Kyoto on a Budget with WeSwap
    February 26, 2017 at 4:31 PM

    […] on forums to plan your trip and get an idea of what things cost in advance. Check out this fab 6 day Kyoto itinerary from Pages of Travel for lots of awesome […]

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