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  • Writer's pictureEryn Gordon

Everything You Need to Know Before Going to Kyoto, Japan

Updated: Nov 12, 2023


A woman wearing kimono stands in front of a shrine in Kyoto
ErynTravels wearing a Kimono in front of a Shinto shrine


Visiting Kyoto: Discover the Rich Cultural Heritage and Natural Beauty

Introduction


Located in the Kansai region of Japan, Kyoto is a city that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity. Known for its centuries-old temples, picturesque gardens, and preserved wooden shops, Kyoto offers a captivating journey into Japan's rich cultural heritage.


Whether you're an avid history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a foodie seeking culinary delights, Kyoto has something to offer for everyone.


In this blog, we will explore the enchanting city of Kyoto, its captivating history, famous attractions, delightful cuisine, and how to get there.


A Quick Glance at the History of Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto boasts a captivating history that dates back centuries. From 794 to 1868, Kyoto served as Japan's capital, making it the imperial residence for over a thousand years. This period, known as the Heian era, marked a significant cultural and artistic renaissance in Japan. It was during this time that Kyoto's iconic wooden shops, known as "machiya," flourished.



Machiya wooden shops line an alleyway in kyoto
Machiya wooden shops line an alleyway in kyoto






These traditional townhouses were meticulously preserved throughout history, offering a glimpse into the architectural splendor of bygone eras.


Today, these machiya provide a unique shopping and dining experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in Kyoto's cultural tapestry.










The Weather in Kyoto

Kyoto experiences a diverse range of seasonal weather, each offering its own allure. In the spring, cherry blossoms paint the city with delicate hues, creating a magical atmosphere.


Summers are warm and humid, with temperatures ranging from 20°C (68°F) to 31°C (88°F). Autumn blesses the city with vibrant foliage, attracting visitors from around the world.


Winters are relatively mild, with temperatures averaging around 5°C (41°F), providing a cozy setting for exploring Kyoto's indoor attractions.


Where is Kyoto located in Japan?

Kyoto is situated in the central part of Honshu, the main island of Japan. It is nestled in the picturesque Kansai region, bordered by Osaka to the south and the scenic mountains to the north.


This strategic location makes it easily accessible from major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, making it a must-visit destination for travelers.



A motorbike driver speeds down a side street in Kyoto
A Kyoto sidestreet


What is Kyoto known for?

Kyoto, Japan is renowned for its cultural treasures, breathtaking landscapes, and time-honored traditions. Here are some of the things that make Kyoto truly special:


Geishas

Kyoto is synonymous with geishas, the epitome of grace and elegance. These highly skilled entertainers captivate audiences with their traditional dance, music, and tea ceremonies. With a history dating back centuries, geishas have played a significant role in Kyoto's cultural fabric. Gion, one of Kyoto's most historic districts, is a prime location to spot geishas as they gracefully move through its charming streets.



A woman with kimono and wagasa umbrella
Image by Freepik


Ryokan Stays

Immerse yourself in traditional Japanese hospitality by staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn. Kyoto is home to some of the most famous ryokans in Japan, offering an authentic experience complete with tatami-matted rooms, futon bedding, and exquisite kaiseki meals. You might even be able to find certain ryokans with private onsen in Kyoto, where you can indulge in a rejuvenating hot spring bath during your stay.


Onsens in Kyoto

Onsens are natural hot springs that have been an integral part of Japanese culture for centuries. In Kyoto, you can find a variety of onsens that offer soothing mineral-rich waters and stunning natural surroundings. From the serene Arashiyama area to the historic Fushimi district, each onsen in Kyoto provides a unique experience, allowing visitors to unwind and rejuvenate both mind and body.


Temples in Kyoto

Kyoto boasts an impressive number of temples, reflecting its historical and spiritual significance. With over 1,600 temples scattered throughout the city, Kyoto is often referred to as the "City of a Thousand Temples."


Among the countless options, some of the most popular temples include:


  • Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

  • Kiyomizu-dera (Pure Water Temple)

  • Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion)

  • Ryoan-ji (Temple of the Peaceful Dragon)

  • Nanzen-ji (South Zen Temple)


Each temple offers a glimpse into Japan's architectural prowess and religious devotion.



A woman walks through Senbon Torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto
ErynTravels walking through the Senbon Torii in Fushimi Inari Shrine

When you think of Japanese religious structures, the torii will likely come to mind. Torii is the gate-style structure seen in Shinto shrines. They represent the gates that separate the secular and the sacred world.


In the image on the right, Eryn from ErynTravels is seen walking through the Senbon Torii (one thousand torii gates) at Fushimi Inari Shrine.


This shrine is among the most significant (and popular) in Kyoto, which means coming here takes some pre-planning.


In order to avoid massive crowds, arriving at the shrine around 7 a.m. is ideal, but even then you'll still find photographers taking advantage of the calm before the storm.





Kyoto Royal Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace, located in the heart of the city, holds great historical importance. It served as the residence of the imperial family until the capital moved to Tokyo in 1868.


Surrounded by lush gardens, the palace complex showcases exquisite traditional architecture and provides visitors with a captivating insight into Japan's royal past.


Famous Food in Kyoto

Kyoto's culinary scene is a delight for food enthusiasts. The city is renowned for its traditional cuisine, which showcases delicate flavors and meticulous presentation.


Some of the must-try dishes include:

  • kaiseki (multi-course haute cuisine)

  • yudofu (tofu hot pot)

  • matcha (green tea) sweets

  • Kyoto-style sushi.


Nishiki Market, often referred to as "Kyoto's Kitchen," is a food lover's paradise, offering a wide array of fresh produce, local delicacies, and street food.



Sushi served together on a plate in Kyoto
Kyoto-style sushi


How to Get to Kyoto

Kyoto is easily accessible from both Tokyo and Osaka, two major cities in Japan.


Kyoto from Tokyo:

The fastest and most convenient way to travel from Tokyo is by taking the Shinkansen, also known as the bullet train. The bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, whisking you away at speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph).


With frequent departures, the Shinkansen offers a seamless and comfortable travel experience.


Kyoto from Osaka:

If you're already in Osaka, reaching Kyoto is a breeze. You can hop on a local train, which takes around 30 minutes, or take the Shinkansen, which covers the distance in just 15 minutes.


So, Should You Visit Kyoto?

Visiting Kyoto is an unforgettable experience that takes you on a journey through time, immersing you in Japan's rich cultural heritage. From awe-inspiring temples and the allure of geishas to traditional ryokan stays and tantalizing cuisine, Kyoto offers a myriad of enchanting experiences.


Kyoto's charm will leave an indelible mark on your heart, whether it's the historic streets or the natural beauty of its surroundings.

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