Kyoto, Japan is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to explore. Through photographs and travel videos, it seems like such a beautiful place. I’d love the chance to walk through the streets with my own two feet, staring at all the colors around me and the shapes of the buildings through the lens of my camera, taking in all the sounds and the scents as I go. The hues of reds, greens, and golds look so vibrant and happy through the photographs I’ve seen. I’ve never been anywhere in Asia, and I feel as though Kyoto may be the first place that I go to begin all my plans of travel through the beautiful continent.
The first place on my list that I think most everyone visiting Kyoto hopes to explore is the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Fushimi Inari is said to be the most important shrine honoring Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and is located in southern Kyoto. With the thousands of brilliant red colored arch ways, known as torii gates, it is instantly recognizable in photos and in person as you approach. The torii gates are perched over a maze of trails behind the main buildings, and all the trails lead into an absolutely amazing wooded area, known as the forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at nearly 765 feet tall (233 meters) and is an important part of the shrine grounds. The grounds are scattered with many small fox statues, which I recently learned is because foxes are considered to be Inari’s messengers. If you’re in it for the long haul with this visit, prepare for a trek lasting roughly 2-3 hours to make it to the summit of the mountain and back, but there are a lot of smaller sites and shrines to see along the way, and you are completely free to go up to whatever point you choose and head back down at any time. It is a truly beautiful and important place in Kyoto, and I will be more than grateful for the opportunity when I get the chance to see it myself. It is such an old and spiritual place, and we all know how much I love walking around and thinking about the history of a place, thinking of how many people set foot exactly where I’m standing, and how long ago they did so, its all just so incredible and mind boggling to me.
This next place is actually a large touristy district in in the western part of Kyoto called Arashiyama, and though tourist traps aren’t always worth it, I would personally say that this one is. There is so much beauty to be seen here that I had to stop myself from adding dozens of photos above in an attempt to show it to you. Arashiyama is most visited in the cherry blossom and fall color seasons respectively, and there’s no wonder why. Just looking at photos of the trees and the colors online gives me such wanderlust. Along with the sheer beauty of the area, there are a variety of different places to see and experience in Arashiyama, and one of those places is one that appeals to me quite a bit; Iwatayama or Monkey Park. Once you arrive at the gorgeous overlook you’ll be greeted by a large number of monkeys hoping for a little snack from you, just waiting to have their photos taken, and once you’ve gotten over the shock and excitement of all the monkeys, you may want to take a minute to look at the incredible panoramic views you have before you of Kyoto down below. It is truly an incredible place that I hope to see, and it also seems like a nice bit of fun to have in between viewing the temples and shrines that you’ll see along the way. Another thing in Arashiyama that I’d love to experience is the Saga Scenic Railway that runs alongside the beautiful Hozu River. Although it only runs for a few miles, it only travels at a maximum speed of about 15 mph, so you have a lovely and relaxing 25 minute trip from Arashiyama to Kameoka to see the serene landscapes around you passing by slowly along the river. There are an abundance of temples throughout the area of Arashiyama, and Kyoto as a whole really, for you to visit and enjoy, some of the ones in this area include Tenryuji, Daikakuji, Jojakkoji, Nisonin, Goji, Adashino Nenbutsuji, and the Otagi Nanbutsuji Temple, just to name a few. The Otagi Nanbutsuji Temple is one that strikes my interests quite a bit in particular. After viewing the Adashino Nenbutsuji temple, you can walk another 10 minutes or so north to view this one, famous for the 1,200 stone statues of Rakan, the devoted followers of Buddhism, that each have a unique and different facial expression carved into them. My desire to see this particular temple is a bit out of character for me, as I usually go for the oldest things in the areas I visit, and these statues are relatively new, having been created in the 1980’s or so, but I think it is such an interesting and different thing and I just have to see it. There is so much more to see and do in Arashiyama that I haven’t even touched on here like boat tours along the river, the Saga-Toriimoto preserved street, the Bamboo Groves, and the Togetsukyo Bridge to list a few, and I strongly urge you to research this area to see so many more absolutely incredible things that you can visit before you book your trip.
Next up is Nishiki Market. This market is in central Kyoto and is one long and narrow street spanning five blocks with over a hundred shops and restaurants for you to browse. As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, the main purpose of traveling and exploring for me is to learn. I want to learn about the culture, lives, language, and customs of every place I go, and there’s no better way to do it than to jump straight in head first, and a market as bustling and busy as this one is perfect for that. Nishiki Market is known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” and encompasses all things food related that Kyoto has to offer like fresh seafood, produce, knives and other cookwares, and I’ve read that it is the best place in the city to find Japanese sweets, pickles, odd snacks, and sushi. I’m more than excited by the prospect of taking some time to walk down the lane, sampling the various foods and treats that Kyoto has to offer, and interacting with all the people wandering through each store along the way.
Before I add too much and turn this post into a much longer one than I intended, I’ll get on to the last thing on my list to share with you; the Eikando Temple, formally known as the Zenrinji Temple. Eikando is famous for it’s absoultuely breathtaking colors and lights in the fall months. I am someone that finds Japanese architecture to be stunning. The shapes and details added to each piece with such care; its all just so beautiful, and there are a variety of buildings on these grounds for you to admire when you visit, along with ponds, bridges, and a neverending supply of trees and landscaping. It truly is a beautiful place, as is the theme here with the temples and sites within Kyoto. There is a never ending list of places and sights that I hope to explore within Kyoto, and when I am finally able to get there on my own, I plan to share every last one of them with you all.
When I was young I didn’t have as big of an appreciation of the Asian countries as I do now. I never took the time to see the beauty and the culture there, I was always very Eurocentric. But as I’ve grown, I’ve become increasingly interested and enamored with everything that they have to offer in Asia. The Japanese culture is infinitely different from my own, and that is something that always intrigues me. How amazing is it that we have the ability to travel places in a matter of hours and be immersed in almost a completely different world, where the people, the language, the buildings, the weather, and everything really, is completely different from what you live through day to day. What an incredible time we live in.
I hope you’re doing well, where ever you are in the world, and I wish you all the best.