Exactly one year ago, I went to Japan (and Kyoto) for my internship. I was invited by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organisation) and Kintetsu and went there for a week with several other travel agents and journalists from all over Europe. At that time, I was a (intern) journalist for the Dutch travel trade magazine TravelPro and I had the time of my life.
During the week, we visited a lot of beautiful places in the southern part of Japan, starting with the city Kyoto. In this article I will go through the highlights of Kyoto with you. What should you definitely visit during a trip to Japan and Kyoto?
1. Fushimi Inari Shrine
When you have seen pictures of Japan, you may know the orange gates that are very popular to photograph by tourists. This shrine you can find in the district Fushimi-ku. It’s a walking path that leads through a tunnel of tori gates. When you walk through the gates and walk all the way up till the end of the path, you will find the sacred Mount Inari at a height of 233 meters. This belongs to the shrine grounds. The walk upstairs takes around two or three hours, but you can walk as far as you would like to.
Most tourists come to Fushimi Inari Shrine for the mountain trails, but the shrine buildings themselves around the gates are also very beautiful and impressive to see. At the beginning of the shrine, you can find the Romon Gate, which was donated in 1589 by the famous leader Toyotomi Deyoshi. Behind the Romon Gate you can find the shrine’s main building (Honden) and several other, impressive buildings.
2. Nashiki market
The Nashiki Market is an indoor market where you can find all kinds of Japanese food. At the market you can find more than one hundred shops and restaurants. It is possible to buy seafood, Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.
Nashiki Market is always a crouded place with tourists, but also with locals. Locals get their daily food here and as a tourist you can taste all kinds of culinary delights. Almost everything that they sell at the market is locally produced and procured. Nishiki Market is also known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’ and the shops definitely prove that this the right name for the market.
3. Gion district
This district of Kyoto is also known as the district where you can find the traditional geisha’s. Geisha’s are Japanese women, dressed in kimono’s and with a white-painted face and red lips. They also were a wig from black hair. Geisha’s are known as companions and are seen as examples from beauty and sophisticated culture. Unfortunately, it is very hard to take a picture of the geisha’s. Many tourists visit Gion hoping to catch a glimpse of a geisha on their way to or from an engagement at an ochaya in the evenings or while running errands during the day.
Furthermore, the Gion district is also popular for its traditional, wooden houses and for all the shops, restaurants and teahouses. The two most popular areas of Gion are Hanami-koji Street and Shirakawa Area.
4. Nijo Castle
The Nijo Castle consists of several buildings and includes a beautiful garden. Nowadays, the castle is open for public as a historic site, but in the past, it was used as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shogunate and as an imperial palace a little later. The palace buildings are provided with beautiful, traditional Japanese architecture.
Nijo Castle can be divided into three areas and visitors can enter the Ninomaru Area, where the Ninomaru Palace is located. The palace rooms are featured with elegantly decorated ceilings and beautifully painted sliding doors. It’s like a little museum. You will definitely get fascinated by how several things of the castle used to look in the past.
Next to the fact that Nijo Castle is a popular attraction to visit by tourists, the castle is also designated a UNESCO World Heritage in 1994.
5. The Kinkaku-ji Temple (temple of the Golden Pavillion)
Close to the Nijo castle, you can find the Golden Pavillion. This is a beautiful and photogenic temple, which is surrounded by breathtaking nature. The temple is a Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It has an impressive structure and a view on a large pond. It’s the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. Through the time, the temple was burned down several times (because of different wars in Japan and Kyoto). The presented structure was rebuilt in 1955. Each floor of the temple represents a different style of architecture.
This temple and her beautiful gardens are definitely worth the visit during a visit to Kyoto.