Kyoto is widely said to be the most beautiful place in all of Japan, and many would say that this is because it manage to escape being bombed in the Second World War. As the city did not have to be rebuilt, it has retained many of its original buildings and is known for being a cultural gem in all of Japan. Certainly, the atmosphere is completely different than places such as Tokyo, so come here if you are looking for a more cultured and slower pace of life in Japan.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Kyoto often feels like a completely different side of Japan, and no more so than at Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, a bamboo grove that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. The stalks of lush green bamboo make the light dance and the whole area has another-worldy feel to it that makes this a must-visit in Kyoto. Many travelers come here to try and take pictures of this serene forest but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t look quite as amazing on your camera as it does it real life. This is a very special place.
Kinkaku-ji, or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion as it is also known, is one of the most visited sites not only in Kyoto but also in all of Japan thanks to its status as a Zen Buddhist temple that originally dates from 1397. The original was burned down by a mentally ill monk and rebuilt in the 1950s, but the design is much the same and the temple is decorated in gold leaf, giving it its name. The temple complex has gorgeous gardens that you can stroll in as well as a number of serene fish ponds and a lake, and even if you are not religious, it is difficult not to appreciate the peaceful atmosphere here. For that reason, many visitors to Kyoto consider this one of the highlights of their trip.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Another highlight of Kyoto, and in fact a highlight of wider Japan as well, Fushimi Inari-taisha or Fushimi Inari Shrine is located at the base of the Inari Mountain from which it takes its name. The shrine is Shinto and is known for having over 5,000 torii or bright orange gates that span the mountain behind the shrine, and if you are feeling energetic then you can hike for two hours up the mountain to visit all the charming little sub shrines that are dotted along the way. Another highlight to check out are the sweet shops as you approach the shrine from the main road which are known for selling fortune cookies called tsujiura senbei which have a history going back to the 19th century, so if you are feeling brave this is a good opportunity to predict your fortune for the coming year.
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of the stunning city of Kyoto then there is no better place than the Kyoto Tower which has a 100 meter high observation deck. On a clear day you can see all over this fine city and although some locals have complained about the tower being too modern in a traditional city such as Kyoto, many appreciate its modern glass and steel design. This definitely offers a different side of Kyoto from the ancient shrines and temples, but is also represents modern architecture in Japan and is a great place to take in some gorgeous views. Make sure you take a camera as this is spectacular at sunset.
Many travelers to Japan find that the highlight of their trip is a visit to historic Kyoto, which has beautiful traditional buildings and leafy streets lined with cherry blossom wherever you look. Close to Osaka and easy to reach by train, it can offer a different perspective on modern Japan and is a great place to come if you want to find out a little more about the culture and history of this fascinating country.