08 May 228 945km // KYOTO // JAPAN
Bright and bold Pagodas, sakura-inspired cotton candy, Shrines and Temples with exuberant beauty, taller-than-tall-skyscraper bamboo forests, a city led by tradition. Kyoto was everything we wanted it to be and more.
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Now let me begin by saying that Japan has been high on our “must visit list” (aka our Wanderlist) since day zero. Six items on our list are dedicated to Japan, and we thankfully ticked off four during our week-long visit to this ancient city, so you can already see where this post is going…YES, WE ARE IN LOVE WITH JAPAN. SO MUCH SO THAT I FELT THE NEED TO USE CAPS TO REALLY HIGHLIGHT THE FACT THAT WE ARE IN LOVE WITH IT. HOPE THAT’S COMING ACROSS CLEARY.
Strategically we chose an Airbnb in old Gion (probably the best – and most expensive at US$132 per night – Airbnb experience we have had in our two years of travel) – the geisha-capital of Japan, filled with quaint, old wooden housed streets, where geishas (the East’s most glamorous entertainers), tourists, and local kimono-adorned youths can be found strolling around between cake-and-tea breaks (side note: we are convinced that the Japanese economy is run on cake-and-candy-loving teenagers because the queues we saw leading outside most bakeries and patisseries were insane).
Most of our explorations in Gion were done on a whim, finding gorgeous Temples and Zen gardens around unexpected corners, and popping into quiet-because-only-the-locals-eat-there ramen restaurants, pointing at pictures on the menu, or at the wax-sculptured food creations in the windows…or simply at other people’s plates (which was common during our Japanese trip as almost everything is written in Japanese and our Japanese is, well, not worth writing about).
The famed-for-Spring-time-Cherry-blossom-bloom Philosopher’s Walk also had to happen…and it did…sadly without the Cherry blossoms *sad face* (if you follow our InstaStories you would remember the drama trying to find them, and the frustration of only finding a few trees in bloom in the whole of Kyoto). But where we felt slight disappointment with the cheeky Cherry season (seems global warming is shifting the seasons up, so take note: rather visit Japan in April only, if you’re after the blossoms like we were), we were completely overwhelmed with nature’s magic visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and the sheer beauty of the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine (which is so much more than what we thought was just 1000 Torii gates – if visiting, come prepared for a hike up Mt. Inari-san to see another what-seem-like-never-ending 4000 gates, and dozens of fox statues which are often offered by worshippers – and are also super cute).
When I say these locations were backdrops to some of our most memorable photographs from our world travels, I am not kidding! As with any photo-perfect spot though, getting there early is compulsory – like tasting the Green-tea-flavored everything compulsory – because no one wants a tourist crowd (standard during their busiest travel season) in their shot, so get to bed early, Sunshines – you need to be up before the birds! And we were. And it was totally worth every bed-hugging-because-I-don’t-waaannaaa moment leading up to it.
Although I regret not hiring a kimono for my own colorful selfie, I feel like we really saw Kyoto, walking almost everywhere, finding a harmonious charm vibrating off the streets of this once-Imperial-capital city. Thank you Kyoto for proving that despite our modern world, beautiful traditions can still be practiced, and nature can in fact be a major city’s centerpiece. We cannot wait to smell your blossoms again.