Length of visit: 2 Full “Exploring” Days
Lodging: Guest House Taiko-ya
I’m going to be honest: I don’t recommend staying here. I gave the place a three-star review on Trip Advisor, but it deserved a two and a half. Ultimately, I felt it was selling itself as something it wasn’t, and I thought the service was bad. Save yourself the trouble and find a place that has good service review.
Can’t Miss Sights and Tours
+ Nijō Castle – This castle has “nightingale floors,” beautiful artwork, and amazing grounds. It is absolutely worth a visit, but give yourself at least two hours.
+ Ginkakuji Temple (The Silver Pavilion) – This zen temple is magnificent, even ethereal. You’ll walk through the gardens, weaving through mounds of combed sand, up hills, through a small forest. It is magical.
+ Honen-in Temple – I wish we had planned our visit to the temple honoring Honen, founder of the Jodo School, as the grounds were beautiful, but the main temple was closed. From afar, the inside looked beautiful; there is a magnificent Buddha, and flowers are lain on the altar each day.
+ Kyoto Imperial Palace – This was the site of the Imperial Palace for many years before the capitol was moved to Tokyo, and it is quite impressive, with many different buildings from different eras. Book ahead of time so you can get access to an English tour – you need pre-authorization to enter the grounds.
+ Here’s the thing. We found a place in a Japanese market that was delicious. An older Japanese man poked his head out while we were staring at the sign and he said “we have English” and ushered us in. The food was awesome. Be adventurous!
+ Yak and Yeti – If you’re interested in a break from Japanese food, I highly recommend this Nepalese restaurant. The food was flavorful and delicious, and the service was great. We would absolutely go back.
Kyoto was tough for me because we walked the entire time and never used transit or a taxi. Other than being tired from the walking, I had an amazing time in Kyoto. It’s an expensive city, but it’s full of history, and is a fabulous place to visit if you are interested in visiting temples, the history of Buddhism, and the history of Japan as a nation.