Kyoto being the epitome of traditional Japanese culture is home to more than 1,500 Buddhist temples, 300 Shinto shrines, 200 important gardens and its famous imperial villas. Nevertheless, Kyoto is also a modern city with a population of about 1.5 million.
Where and what is there to see? Kyoto lies in a wide valley surrounded on three sides by hills, and were designed with the entrance to the south and the Imperial Palace to the north. Many great monuments and Zen temples were built which made it became an artistic centre of Japan during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Besides those Japanese women that are trained to perform tea ceremony or to entertain people with conversation and singing and dancing (geishas, is a term being used in Japan), and the cherry blossom drifting in the wind. Some of the highlights that I think you should not miss shall include:
- Gion quarter
- The Imperial Palace
- Shugakuin imperial villa
- Toji and Sanjusangendo Buddhist temples
If you have limited time, you must not miss the Higashiyama district. The Higashiyama district in Kyoto has an amazing concentration of sights within a reasonably compact area. For example, the wooden platform in Kiyomitzudera temple will give you spectacular views over the deep narrow steep-sided valley. You will come across Japanese traditional two-storey wooden townhouses known as machiya once you walk through Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka. What attracts me most is the simple yet elegant two-storey pavilion known as Silver Pavilion in Ginkakuji. The Silver Pavilion is actually set in a spectacular garden of soft greens and a sea of silver sand, and is said to reflect the ‘moonlight.’
The smart travel tips to help travellers, tourists and you save money, stay safe and travel smart
- Use care when crossing the street. In Japan, driving is on the left, hence look right when crossing.
- Know your chopsticks. I believe life is easier in Japan if we have had some experience with chopsticks. Just to take note to move only the chopstick on top rather than both at once. Remember not to point, lick, or gesture with chopsticks, and not to take food from a common serving plate with the ends of the chopsticks you’ve had in your mouth. It is also good not to use your chopsticks to take food from someone else’s chopsticks, as this denotes a funerary custom.
- Get a Japan Rail Pass. To what I know this pass offers unlimited travel on Japan Railways trains and must be used within three months of purchase. Usually a one-week pass is less expensive than a regular round-trip ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkansen. Do check first before you purchase as the pass might be available only to people with tourist visas, as opposed to business, student, and diplomatic visas.
- Greet with a bow. You may want to know that Japanese of all ages and backgrounds bow in greeting each other, I have even seen them greet with a bow even while on the telephone! I have notice that foreign visitors who bob the head will usually get a smile of recognition in return. No worries though, as Japanese know all about handshaking too!
What I can say is to enjoy yourself with images of ancient temples, imperial palaces, wooden houses, geishas and cherry blossom from those places of interest and interesting places in Kyoto.