On the third day in the land of takoyaki, we jumped to another city – KYOTO!! It carries a reputation as the most beautiful Japanese city. And even I’ve just been there for a day, I will definitely agree without a heartbeat. If Osaka is the culinary capital, Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan. The city is all about quiet and beautifully preserved temples, shrines, gardens, houses, stores and traditions. Kyoto has captured my heart and I’ll tell you why.
HOW TO GO TO KYOTO
Kyoto is nearer to Osaka City and can be access via different railways. If you’re coming from Tokyo, take a shinkansen or a Willer overnight bus. You can also read my previous post Japan: Airfare, Visa, Budget & Travel Guides.
from Shin-Osaka: Our airbnb is near Shin-Osaka so we opted for a shinkansen. It’s the fastest route, 15 minutes to be exact, but also the most pricey one. (Y1260 ≈ P665) Good thing is that it’s covered in our JR Pass. If you’re on a budget, you can take the JR Kyoto Line. (Y560 ≈ P265, 24 minutes)
from Osaka Station: There are two railways you can take here depending on your itinerary. Take the JR Kyoto Line (Y560, 29 minutes) if you plan to go to Central Kyoto first. BUT if you want to be in the Bamboo Grove (Arashiyama) early morning then take the Hankyu Line. (Y400 ≈ P190, 44 minutes)
FIRST STOP: FUSHIMI INARI-TAISHA
If you have search Kyoto in google or pinterest, the famous torii gates of Fushimi Inari will surely pop out one way or another. It is the most famous Shinto shrine in the whole city of Kyoto so I didn’t miss the chance to see it with my own two eyes. (And an artsy photo with it of course!)
From Kyoto Station, we transferred to JR Nara line and went down at Inari Station. You’ll never missed it because it’s just in front of the station. We arrived as early as 8:30 AM but it’s already crowded with tourists and students in their school uniforms. (I don’t know why they’re not in school) This shrine never sleeps at all!
The weather is gloomy that morning but the whole shrine is as bright as the sun. I learned that it’s not the color orange, it’s vermilion, the color said to expel evil spirits and diseases. At the main gate, a group of Japanese kids in their kawaii uniforms asked for a photo with me. (understood it after a 5 minutes charade with them) I don’t know if they find me Japanese model material (LOL) or maybe they just needed it for their reaction paper. Both ways, they remind me of the animes I used to watch. I wanna hug them four!
Some basic facts about Fushimi Inari Shrine are: (1.) It is the shrine of Inari, god of rice & sake; (2.) The main shrine is located at the base of the mountain named Inari as well and it has 10,000 torii gates leading to the top; (3.) Torii gates symbolizes an entrance to a sacred place thus the top of the mountain is a place for private worship.
Hiking up will take 1 to 2 hours and we don’t have much of that time (and I’m terribly concern for my parents’ legs) so we decided to pass and just make wishes on the shrines instead. There are a lot of ways – ringing the giant bell, writing it in papers, carrying a heavy rock, buying mini torii gates – to say your prayers especially for prosperity. I tried almost all because there’s nothing to lose anyway.
Foxes are everywhere in this shrine so I did a little research that lead me to the knowledge that foxes are the messengers of god Inari. If you’re still not contented with all the wishing rituals you did, you can continue hiking up until you reached the entrance leading to the famous 10,000 torii gates. These gates are donated and their names are carved in each one. The names are written in the back so you won’t actually see it unless you turned back.
We didn’t finish the trail to the mountain and decided to go back and leave for our second stop which is a little far. On our way out, we saw a line of stores and food stalls just beside the tower gate. My mom got crazy with the souvenirs shop while I go find myself a breakfast. Got attracted to the smell and fresh squid of the takoyakis (500yen ≈ P250) that I just found myself watching them cook and buying after. But no regrets people, it’s the best takoyaki of my life.
SECOND STOP: ARASHIYAMA
From the Southern Kyoto, we rode a train to the West side of the city. Arashiyama is one of the famous sightseeing district in Kyoto. The district has temples, gardens, shrines, monkey park, a postcard-like bridge and, of course, the ever famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. It’s main reason why we travel 30 minutes from the city to this Kyoto outskirt.
It is a
long long long long walk from the train station to the Bamboo Grove. I did enjoy the view though. It’s like I’m walking in Nobita and Doraemon’s neighborhood. I saw some bicycle rentals on our way and I’m keeping that in mind for next time. (Or for you if you’re going soon)
The Bamboo Grove is small from what I expected. The photogenic part is in the last part of the path but it also the area with most tourist. I’ve already prepared myself beforehand (it took me a month) with the photobombers and I advised you to do the same. (to save your heart) Nevertheless, the grove is sublime and serene to hate.
After admiring the bamboos, we took our lunch in the area but walked a little far away from the grove because the stores are pricey and crowded. We decided to ditch the other temples (golden and silver pavilion) and stay a little more in the area. I underestimated Arashiyama on my itinerary planning. I thought that the area is all just about the bamboos. And I’m telling you right now that it’s not. The district is old but attractive, serene despite the tourists and just simply very japanese.
It’s hard to leave Arashiyama especially if you’ve just been there for just 3 hours. There are still a lot of places there we haven’t seen but time is not really on our side on this trip. So maybe next time my dear Arashiyama. Wait for me next time. (I’ll be back with the super bikes down the streets!!)
Summary of Expenses (in pesos)
Shinkansen to Kyoto – P665 (*included in JR Pass)
Train to Inari Station – P60
Mini torii gates for wishes – P250
Takoyaki – P250
Train to Saga-Arashiyama – P60 + P115 (*included in JR Pass)
Lunch – P300
Street foods – P300 (bought 3 ranges from P100-P150)
Train back to Kyoto Station – P115 (*included in JR Pass)
TOTAL: P1,100 (spent most in foods)
*If you don’t have a JR Pass, I advised you to get the Kyoto 1 Day Bus Pass for 500 yen (P250) that will give you unlimited bus rides to the whole Kyoto tourist spots for 1 day. But Kyoto to Arashiyama will take 45 minutes instead of the 15 minutes train. So start early!
My part 2 Kyoto story will be up too soon. But if you’re heading to Kyoto some time soon, you can ask me questions down the comment section. 🙂