Hello everyone! Konnichiwa from Japan!
Before I start this special and chunky blog entry about my favorite place in Japan (this has taken me 3 days or so to consolidate everything~ woot~) ..
Look at that cute Totoro riding the Shinkansen with a flying Doraemon : )))
ANYWAYYY.. Moving on...
I know that this post is way OVERDUE already (considering the fact that I went to Kyoto.. last Summer 2014~ wow haha!) but I figured that this might be helpful to those who would love to travel to Kyoto during Spring / Summer (not the extremely cold season like now huhu).
You have 3-6 months to plan for your ultimate Kyoto backpacking trip! WOOO! I hope that this guide will be helpful. ^_^
I actually didn't have any itinerary at all, I just went with the flow the whole time! I'm usually the organized type of person (who, at the minimum, would have "places-to-go" list / or a travel guide book with her)... but that time, I was planning a Kawaii in Manila 2 convention with my friends and my organization skills were focused solely on those..
And I was like...
True story bro :))
Anyway, I'll try to my best to make this list of things-to-do as simple as possible. I'll continue my "Kyoto Photo Stroll" series next time! :)
It feels so weird to blog about Kyoto in summer when it's winter season here!
#RainbowholicTravels in Kyoto
Before starting your Kyoto adventure..
Before I embarked on my journey to the heart of Japan (sorry Tokyo, but it's not you haha)..
I still considered to do some basic preparations.
First, I checked the weather of the region. I think that this is a must for every trip! : )
Even though it was summer, there were rainy days as well. I didn't want to go backpacking with wet shoes so I brought with me my favorite pair of sturdy yet おしゃれ (fashionable) sandals + extra comfy sneakers for longer walks. : )
My travel period was from July 3 to July 10. Honestly, I only thought that I would be there for 5 days maximum, but I decided to extend my stay for 2 more days because 5 days were just not enough!
I only brought a big backpack with my extra clothes and girly necessities, a small canvas bag and my mini shoulder / camera bag. I think that if you want to go on backpacking adventure around Japan... SUMMER would be the best time since you can just bring extra shirts and shorts for convenience. If you want to relax and just shop, travel around Japan during colder seasons. If you're in for a unique and super adventurous Japanese travel experience, summer then! : )
I didn't bring my laptop with me so I could fully enjoy the whole trip without work distractions. I'm a bit guilty though, I still did some work using my iPhone, haha!
When my trip was about to end, I just bought a box / inquired from my hotel (Toyoko Inn) if I could mail my stuff to my address here in Saitama. And all of my omiyage and laundry were sent back to our apartment here just in time! :D
Kyoto Transportation & Hotel Accommodations
I live in Saitama prefecture and I didn't want to spend so much on my transportation budget so I took a night bus to Kyoto instead.
My brother helped me with the ticket and he booked me a VIP liner bus from a Japanese website.
You can check willerexpress.com for more night bus information.
You can always travel to farther destinations even without riding the shinkansen / bullet train! : ) That's how you can maximize your Japan Experience budget, hehe!
I loved the VIP bus because it was spacious~ and I was able to sleep comfortably!
I arrived at Kyoto at around 6 or 7:00 in the morning. They had a VIP lounge as well, where everyone can take a rest first! I met many backpackers there too! I think that lounges such as this are very convenient. You can retouch or put on make-up, have some coffee, and relax ~ before you start your soul-searching trip. Haha!
My brother and his family went to Kyoto before and they stayed at Toyoko Inn. Because they had a pleasant experience, they decided to sign up for membership for the perks as well (since there are many Toyoko Inn branches all over Japan).
I didn't want to think of looking for another cheaper hotel / hostel so I also stayed in Tokyo Inn (Shijo Karasuma branch). During my week-long trip, I stayed at two Toyoko Inn branches. One was in Shinsaibashi, Osaka (for 1 night), and the one in Kyoto (for the whole stay).
It's not a super fancy hotel but I loved my stay! And the branch I stayed = perfect location. I could just go walk to Teramachi, and other shopping centers.. on foot!
Kyoto features a unique mix of shopping, where modern, high end fashion shops can be found alongside stores with centuries of history selling traditional Kyoto crafts or specialty foods. This is well expressed in the city's largest shopping district along Shijo Street at the heart of central Kyoto.
The shopping area along Shijo Street is centered around the intersection of Shijo and Kawaramachi streets where you will find the Takashimaya and Marui department stores. A Daimaru department store, as well as high end fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, stand nearby. If you continue along Shijo Street across the Kamo River toward Yasaka Shrine, the large stores give way to smaller shops selling fashion and Kyoto specialty foods and crafts.
Branching off Shijo Street around the Kawaramachi intersection are the Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcades. These two parallel running, covered pedestrian streets, are packed with shops and restaurants that sell day-to-day clothes and goods and draw a younger crowd than the more upscale stores along Shijo Street. Also found in the area, Nishiki Market, a colorful narrow food market street known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", runs about a block off parallel to Shijo Street. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
ALSOOO... Free Japanese-style breakfast was included too! Who could complain? XD
Oh by the way~
If you are looking for more information about Kyoto, I highly recommend www.insidekyoto.com. : )
Also, Kyoto Station has a tourist center as well where you can get some fliers, maps, discount coupons and so much more! : )
Anyway, let's start with my personal activity / place recommendations!
Fushimi Inari Shrine
When my brother and I first went to Kyoto (also a backpacking trip), we missed the Fushimi Inari shrine. So this shrine was one of my must-visit places! ^_^
During my trip, I really prayed a lot (to all Gods XD Hehehehe) for the success of Kawaii in Manila 2 convention! : )
Thank you for hearing my wish! ^_^
To quench my thirst for green tea/matcha, I tried out this cute cafe near JR Nara Line Inari Station.
First time to see an iced matcha latte with gradient effect, haha!
Visit Kiyomizu Dera
I think that this temple should top your list of must-visit temples in Kyoto. : )
Kiyomizudera (清水寺, literally "Pure Water Temple") is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall's pure waters. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools withinJapanese Buddhism, but formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was added to the list ofUNESCO world heritage sites. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
Kashogama Pottery School
While walking around the area of Kiyomizu temple, I chanced upon a pottery school!
It was my first time to try pottery and it was so fun!
After I created my heart-shaped cup, I was asked to leave my mailing address (I'm not sure if they ship overseas) so that they could send my finished product after. I got mine in 1-2 weeks!
For more information, please check: www.kashogama.com
Rent a Bicycle in Arashiyama
I rented a bike for my Arashiyama afternoon trip. Unfortunately, there was a time limit and the rental shop closed at 5/6:00 PM.
Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
I think that a trip to Kyoto wouldn't be complete without riding a bike for exploration~ well, that is just my opinion. Hehe! : )
Try All Unique Japanese Sundae Flavors Available!
I think that Kyoto has more sundae flavor offerings than any other place I've gone to! Cheese biscuit, matcha, Kyoto soybean flour.. you name it, they probably have it, haha~
Dress Up as a Kawaii Japanese Maiko!
One of the best experiences I had was the Maiko photoshoot by www.maiko-henshin.com!
It was quite pricey and I almost paid 25,000 JPY (or probably more?) because of my package additions but I absolutely had no regrets in doing so.. because the WHOLE process was just unforgettable. Nevermind that my budget almost went off the roof, lolol.
Visitors aren't allowed to take behind-the-scenes photos so I'll just do my best do describe the process, haha!
First, they made me choose the kimono, wig, and other pretty accessories. After that, they did my maiko make-up. And I was so amazed how they did it @___@ I have huge respect for Japanese geishas, maikos and artists!
All of the staff were girls and they were very accommodating. The studio inside was so beautiful! With all the tatami, ikebana, and Japanese elements you'd find in the anime. *_*
I'm not very good in Japanese / Nihongo so I would say that broken Japanese would be ok! Always check their website for special discount / coupon ~ www.maiko-henshin.com
This one was definitely a highlight of my Kyoto trip!
Japanese Cuisine by Matcha Cafe Tsuburano Kyoto
If you want to try Kyoto's best's matcha sweets + you're feeling a little hungry, I highly recommend Tsuburano Kyoto.
It is just around the Kiyomizu Area~! I will definitely go back to try their other offerings during my next trip!
And they have very friendly staff as well. ^^
Sagano Romantic Train
I love riding trains a lot because: 1) I get to lost in my thoughts; 2) I find beautiful sceneries to be relaxing.
I told myself that I wouldn't leave Kyoto if I haven't tried the Sagano romantic train yet! It was already beautiful during the summer, how much more during cherry blossom peak seaon + fall?! :O
The Sagano Scenic Railway (嵯峨野観光鉄道, also known as the Sagano Romantic Train or Sagano Torokko) is a sightseeing train line that runs along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Its charming, old fashioned trains wind their way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace, taking about 25 minutes to make the seven kilometer journey and giving passengers a pleasant view of the scenery as they travel from Arashiyama through the forested ravine and into rural Kameoka. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
Unique Experience: Hozugawa River Boat Ride
I love trying out unique experiences... and the most random thing I tried during the trip was a boat ride.
I mean wth, who goes to Kyoto and try a boat ride? :)) Or maybe it's just me? Hehe~
At first, I didn't have any idea about it because all I knew about Kyoto were these keywords: green tea, Gion, temples, ryokan, etc..
Definitely, Kyoto does have so much to offer than that!
I've never felt so detached from the world / my problems that time during those precious moments. ;_;
Nature and green trees, I love you so much *_*
Hozugawa River Cruises (保津川下り, Hozugawa Kudari) are sightseeing boat rides down the Hozugawa River from Kameoka to Arashiyama. The cruises utilize traditional style, flat bottomed boats piloted by boatmen who guide the craft with oars and bamboo poles. The boats take about two hours to leisurely make their way down the river and are a relaxing way to see the natural scenery of the largely undeveloped ravine. The river cruises are often combined with a ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway.
Cruises are offered year round, but are particularly popular from mid November to early December when theleaves change color. The boats are heated in winter and operate during light rain (they will be covered in a plastic tent), but service is canceled in case of heavy rain or large changes in the water level.
The Hozugawa River was originally employed to transport logs that were used to build many of Kyoto andOsaka's famous temples and castles. During the Edo Period the river was cleared of obstructions so that boats carrying grain, firewood and other cargo could safely navigate it. Trains and trucks eventually made river transport obsolete, and operations ceased after several hundred years of use. However, the boats were brought back and eventually became popular as a sightseeing attraction. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
Walk Around Kyoto in Japanese Yukata
Maiko Henshin has a sister company called "Shiki Sakura" where you can rent your yukata of choice (they will also do your hair!) for a whole day.
So I decided to try it out, since it was only 3,000 JPY (I forgot the price I paid for) ~
... and I went to Osaka all the way to meet Gracia, a new kawaii friend from Indonesia! : )
We wore yukata together, took purikura~ and had a kawaii lunch time at Fujiya Restaurant in Shinsaibashi. : )
(just to take a touristy photo with Glico man)
Since you are already there, why not visit Osaka too?
One of Osaka's most popular tourist destinations, this street runs parallel to the Dotonbori canal. It is a popular shopping and entertainment district and is also known as a food destination. At night it is lit by hundreds of neon lights and mechanized signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
Kawaii 3D Latte Art at ELK
If you want to try out the famous kawaii 3D latte art in any coffee shop in Japan, I would suggest ELK's!
It was perfect timing because I went there and I was the only customer. Haha! I love renting out the whole cafe accidentally : ))
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
At first, I thought that this place would be boring...
... but I thought wrong. @_@
After traveling around Kyoto, I began to appreciate nature's wonders more and more. And I really hoped & prayed that time that such overwhelming beauty like this should be preserved for the next decades and hundreds of years. @_@
Bamboo Groves: The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
TOEI Kyoto Studio Park
Toei Kyoto Studio Park is the only theme park in Japan where you can observe the filming of period dramas (jidaigeki films). Here you can walk freely around the Toei Kyoto Studio film set. This set depicts a street from the Edo period, and is used to shoot more than 200 films per year. Enjoy the atmosphere of ancient Japan by taking in a ninja show maybe even dressing up as a geisha or samurai.
You will find all kinds of entertainment for both the young and the old, in this world of imagination and creation.
I love amusement parks a lot, whether I am with family and friends.. or when I am alone. I don't know why but I really love spending alone time, even if it's a park where everyone has a companion! : ))
See that ninja picture above? I really tried out the purple ninja costume! Look at the way I'm holding the sword, lololol. This ninja wouldn't be able to do her tasks and even kill a fly, haha!
When in Kyoto, Take Photos of Everything
Kyoto has this different charm from Tokyo and I cannot even describe it. It's probably because it's simpler and more peaceful to live in Kyoto?
For some reason, being in Kyoto makes me reflect about my life. If you want to do soul-searching, maybe you will find solace in Kyoto. You don't have to understand Japanese to enjoy traveling here (and anywhere else in Japan). I don't know if it is just me but I find Kyoto locals friendlier and less stiff than the locals in Tokyo, hehe ~
Maybe that is the reason why I wanna settle here in the future. ^^
Kawaii + zen = why not?
Sexy Oiran Photoshoot at Studio Kokoro
Thank you Studio Kokoro, for revealing my sexy side while being fully-clothed, lololol. : ))
Actually, I found out about Studio Kokoro accidentally while I was shopping for souvenirs around Arashiyama area.
And you know me, the more unique the experience, the more I wanna try it out, hahaha!
Buy Yukata Sets On Sale
If you are going to buy special souvenirs for your loved ones, why not authentic Japanese yukata sets? I forgot the name of the shop in Arashiyama (but it was near Studio Kokoro) and they were selling really pretty yukata sets for half of the original price! *_*
I bought two sets for my dear friends, ChiChi and Anne! : )
Donguri no Mori: A Studio Ghibli Shop & Cafe
If you are a Totoro fan like me, you will freak out and have the time in your life at "Donguri no Mori", located at Ninen-zaka.
Hoshino Coffee & Perfect French Toasts
I was craving for pancakes / french toasts and I came across a coffee shop called "Hoshino Coffee". And omg, it was the BEST FRENCH TOAST I've eaten in my life!!!!!! *_*
I haven't seen this branch in Tokyo! But I think they're opening one along Takeshita Dori too! : )
And hand-drip coffee is always a good idea, hehe! ^_^
Kawaii Sirotan Friends Park for the Seal Lovers
My dear friend Leen loves seals a lot, so I didn't hesitate to visit this shop so I could buy a perfect omiyage for her.
If you love cute seals, then this shop is for you. Based on my memory, this was around the Teramachi area. Hehe! : )
Save Money: Buy Cheap Yet Oishii Bento
If your aim is to fully experience Kyoto with a tight budget, I suggest that you stuff yourself with full yet inexpensive meals, such as this bento boxes I discovered being sold inside train stations! *_* 380 yen?! Wow!
Since Kyoto is one of Japan's best / popular travel destinations, it wouldn't be hard to find omiyage / souvenir for your loved ones and friends! Before you tell your folks your Kyoto adventure stories, make sure you've given them something first hahaha : ))
Going Back / Riding The Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Since I have extended my trip and I had a meeting in the afternoon in Harajuku (with Ashley and Misato-san for Kawaii in Manila 2 Fashion Show), I didn't have any choice but to buy a whopping 13,000 JPY worth of shinkansen ride. : ))
And it was another relaxing ride! I really, really love trains, hehehe ~
I do hope that my recommendations / tips would be helpful for you to plan your dream Kyoto trip! : )
If you have suggestions or questions, please feel free to leave a comment below! ^_^
Hopefully, I can have more time for traveling this 2015! I want to go to Okinawa, Nara (and visit all the temples!), Fukuoka, Nagoya, Hokkaido.. and so much more. I wanna visit every region / prefecture and blog about my experience! :D Hashtag will blog for travel, haha! ^_^
Thank you for reading~