I wanted to see as much of Japan as possible in my short second trip there, so I also took a day trip from Osaka to famous Kyoto. It’s not far (took me about an hour if I remember correctly) and quite conveniently accessible with a pretty cheap train ride.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years and thus is one of the most historically and culturally important cities in all of Japan. It contains a mind-boggling amount of sights. It really feels like you can’t walk through the city without running into a temple, shrine, or palace every couple of minutes. In total, Kyoto hosts an unbelievable number of religious places – according to Wikipedia, a whopping two thousand. Kyoto, unlike almost any other large Japanese city, was largely spared in World War II, which means that most of the ancient sites survived the war and did not have to be rebuilt.
First off, a disclaimer: I had read somewhere that a day trip would be sufficient to see Kyoto. This, in my experience, is absolutely not correct. Now, it might be possible to visit the absolute essentials if you have a super-tight schedule and go through them at a very quick pace. However, part of the magic of Kyoto to me seemed to be that there is something to see literally everywhere, so you can just kind of go with the flow and wander around aimlessly for a bit, and for that you would certainly need more than a day. On top of that, we are talking about myself here, so a fair bit of getting lost and wandering around aimlessly is just unavoidable. On top of that, most of the sights you will want to visit are religious sites that almost all close at 5pm. Because of that, my trip was a bit hectic and then became a bit frustrating near the end as the weather took a turn for the worse, I could not find any places that were open anymore, and realized that I would not be able to get to see nearly everything I had set my mind on. As an example, I never made it to Kinkaku-ji, possibly the most famous site in Kyoto.
However, I absolutely do not mean to say that I didn’t enjoy my time in Kyoto. I just wished I had more time to fully enjoy it. My first impression while being there was pretty clear: This is the most beautiful place I have ever visited, and I need to come back at some point. Now, I’m sure the temples and shrines can get a bit ‘old’ after a while and Kyoto might not offer as much variety as giant cities like Seoul or Tokyo do, but it is an incredibly fascinating city either way and I can’t recommend visiting it enough.
I can’t go through every single place I visited like I might usually do since there were so many small places I visited that I ended up losing track completely after a while. But here are some highlights:
Sorry, I’m not done with the superlatives yet. My first thought after going there was quite simple: This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. This was the first place I went to in Kyoto, where I spent almost the entire morning and took half of all my Kyoto pictures, so it overshadowed the rest of day a bit.
This is the most popular Shintō shrine in all of Japan. It once attracted a whopping 2.6 million visitors in a three(!) day span over the 2006 Japanese new year’s celebrations.
Now, the shrine itself is lovely, but this is not nearly all that there is to this place. It is located at the base of the Inari mountain, which is part of the complex as there are multiple smaller shrines all over the mountain. The hike is incredibly rewarding, as the paths are lined with countless of the famous Japanese Torii gates.
It can take up to two hours to reach the top as there are multiple paths with lots of smaller shrines to discover. At the top, you are rewarded with even more religious sites and a great view of Kyoto.
I’m not sure if my words or even pictures can do this place justice, so I’ll just stop here. There’s plenty of more information on this place available online obviously, and you can even explore it a bit on Google Street View.
After that, to be honest, everything just kind of blurred together for me. I strolled around and visited a bunch more places, some of which I had made note of before and seeked out, many others that I just strolled across and got curious. So I’ll just post some of my favorite pictures here since everything was lovely and interesting and beautiful. Needless to say, Kyoto is an amazing place and I hope I can go back there sometime, as it feels like there is so much else left for me to explore!