Where Did I Go?
Kyoto! It’s the seventh largest city in Japan with a population of 1.4 million people. The bombings & air raids of World War 2 did not affect Kyoto, meaning it so many amazing & original temples, shrines & other historically priceless buildings & architecture. Don’t miss it!
How Did I Get There?
We travelled from Kanazawa to Kyoto by fast train which takes about 2 hours. We always paid extra when travelling by train in Japan to reserve our seats. Wasn’t always necessary but with 2 small children & what felt like a ton of luggage, it was worth the extra money to know we wouldn’t have to stand or be separated.
Where Did I Stay?
We booked our accommodation online. We stayed in a self contained town house called Tsumugi Inn, which we loved. Our host was really helpful offering endless information on places to eat nearby, transport & sightseeing. Other than that we were on our own! Our kids loved having a place to themselves, after a couple of weeks cooped up in hotels, our own accommodation was a welcome respite. We also enjoyed trying to blend in with the locals!
What Did I Do?
Kyoto is filled to the brim with historical & gorgeous sights. We quickly established that neither our 3 or 7 year old were going to see more than one temple/shrine a day, so our itinerary changed accordingly. Transport is relatively easy & cheap, but it can get confusing after a long, tiring day & the trains can be packed tight with commuters which not only freaked out the kids but us grown ups too – although it was probably worth the experience at least once!
There is literally so much to see in Kyoto. Luckily Mr D & I had been to Kyoto before briefly where we had managed to see many of the sights without kids in tow.
Here are just a few of the things we got up to on this trip:
Bamboo Forest – this has been on my wish list for a long time. Do you remember the fight scene in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, balancing high on teetering bamboo forest poles? It’s filmed here and is truly breathtaking. It was freezing cold the day we visited, & as always, loads of sightseers. But the forest itself is gorgeous, the kids got to run up & down the paths which they enjoyed.
Arashiyama is the cute adjoining touristy little village with loads of places to eat & quirky arts & crafts stores to poke your nose in to. It would be beautiful here in the Spring, with cherry blossoms lining the river, bicycle hire & cormorant fishing.
It would be easy to spend a whole day here, with plenty of temples & shrines to see & shopping.
Gion District – I so fell in love with Kyoto that I downloaded & re-read Memoirs of a Geisha while I was here just so I could place some of the buildings & locations. Gion is the old geisha quarter where beautiful old teahouses, traditional restaurants & the old Kobu Kaburen-jo Theatre can be found. The streets are full of old houses, art galleries & kimono stores. Amazingly beautiful & inspiring, I felt like we were walking on a film set. We strolled on a Sunday, which was very busy! So many tourists on the lookout for geisha, I don’t think any of us saw one….
Nishiki Market – a great place to get out of the rain or to break free of the temple sightseeing for a while. All sorts of weird & wonderful Japanese delicacies are for sale here, & many of them have taste samples for you to try – if you are brave enough! In the centre of town, it’s also close to the high street fashion stores, souvenir shops & famous Teramachi Shopping Arcade if you haven’t got your fix yet! We bought my daughter a gorgeous pair of traditional kimono style pyjamas here, & my son an oh-so-not traditional ninja costume!
Omikuji – by making an offering (a couple of yen usually) you can have your fortune told at any of the temples & shrines throughout Japan. They are called Omikuji. Once you receive your fortune (on a small piece of paper) and tie them to trees or poles in the temples they look quite lovely. Oaks & I became quite fascinated with the many different types of Omikuji & eventually tried one in Kyoto. Oaks picked a vending machine (with English translation) where a scary looking buffalo or maybe a bison, picks up your Omikuji for you & drops it down the hole – we tried not to squeal with delight in the busy temple as we read her “future”. Heaps of fun & really beautiful. I’ve linked to a page with some gorgeous examples here.
Samurai Show – Our kids became borderline obsessed with ninja & samurai during our Japan visit. They loved the castles, booby traps, weapons & tales of heroics more than anything else we saw or did in Japan. Any park, laneway or castle grounds became the location of a dramatic fight scene & we got so many questions Mr D & I couldn’t answer that Google was our best friend! We took the kids to see a Samurai show at the Kembu Theatre in Kyoto which was an amazing experience. The show was intimate & respectful, I think we all learnt a lot not only about the Samurai but the essence of Japanese culture & life. The best bit though, the kids got to dress up in traditional Samurai costume & learn how to hold a sword. I wrote a post featuring some of my favourite photos of it here.
Have you been to Kyoto? Anything you’d recommend for me to do next time?