If you must visit one country, and at any time of the year, it’s Japan. There is an overwhelming amount of places to see, food to taste, and culture to take in…and, trust us, its worth the long flight. The autumn colors in November were enticing and wonderful, but we cannot wait to go back in the spring for cherry blossom season! There are ski resorts in the winter, and the beautiful island of Okinawa during the hot summer months. But both Tokyo, Kyoto and other cities are wonderful year round.
Not only are the people extremely friendly, the cities are all clean and easily accessible by foot, bus, or biking (which is very popular, especially in Kyoto). Our vacation lasted 2 weeks over Thanksgiving, and it was not enough time to do everything!
Kyoto is a city known for its temples and historical significance. When you arrive, it’s like you’ve gone back in time. Most buildings haven’t changed, and even the homes people live in look ancient. Day trips to Nara and Osaka (posts coming soon!) are also great and just a quick train ride outside of Kyoto.
Our train from Tokyo to Kyoto was the best train transportation we’ve ever taken so far in our travels. It was easy to find, comfortable, and fast! Bullet trains in Japan are no joke! We stayed at a wonderful airbnb in Kyoto center right next to Nijo Castle. Walking around Kyoto is the best way of seeing everything, but everybody has a bike and there are plenty of buses and trains to take you around.
Some of our favorite spots included the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds, Gion District (geisha spotting!), Honen-in temple, Kiyomizu-dera temple, the famous orange Torii gates of Fushimi Inari (get there early to avoid crowds, and wear comfortable shoes!), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple), and the Arashiyama area of Kyoto (especially in the fall!) The Bamboo grove in Arashiyama is breathtaking (photo below) and only the beginning of discovering this area of Kyoto. The villa of the famous Japanese silent actor Okochi Denjiro was a wonderful surprise as was Tenryu-ji with its panoramic views and interesting rock gardens (photo above).
The Nishiki Market in Kyoto is a cramped and exciting place to find different foods, ceramics, candies, clothes, goods, and so much more. If you’re there on a slow day its wonderful, but the crowds can make it unbearable. We went and explored, but didn’t last long because of the mounds of people!
The Manga Museum was the place to go on one of our rainy days. Its a cute museum that is filled with Manga and art pieces. And, if you have the time, sign up for a caricature of yourself that is offered inside of the museum by some talented Manga artists!
And don’t forget to try Macha. And it comes in all forms! You’ll see it everywhere in Japan, whether it be Matcha tea, ice cream, cake, or candy, you’ll find it here. A stop at Marukyu Koyamaen Tea house promised us matcha in almost every form. The tea and cake was delicious, especially the matcha crepe layer cake!
If you’re on a budget, Japan is a great place to visit, but if you’re there to splurge, you must try staying at a Ryokan. These traditional Japanese rooms and homes are decorated simply and elegantly, and you won’t believe the wonderful sleep you’ll get on a tatami mat (on the floor…) Room options also offer an outdoor garden or Onsen (hot spring bath).
Japan may look like a small country, but it is huge and diverse! Two weeks was not enough time to see Tokyo and Kyoto, and there’s so much more food, culture and places we want to visit next time we go. Where have you been in Japan?…we’d like to know!