We started off the morning thinking about maybe going outside for breakfast but the fresh rice bread was so delicious we couldn’t say no. Too bad I don’t have any pictures of our simple yet awesome breakfast.
Osaka to Kyoto
With our bags good to go, we checked out and made our way to the Osaka station (subway from Nishinagahori station to Taisho and then JR circle line around to Osaka station). Kyoto actually isn’t that far so it only took us around 30 minutes to get there. Once in Kyoto (argh still regret that I never took any photos of the station or inside because it was quite unique), we walked to our Ryokan called Ryokan Shimizu which I had found through TripAdvisor. More on the Ryokan later. We weren’t able to check-in because we got there so early so we just dropped off our bags and headed out to start our Kyoto adventure.
Some Fast Food
We first needed to eat some lunch so we found this fast food restaurant right by the ryokan and ate there first.
After that we walked back to the main station and at first had a lot of trouble figuring out where the bus was that would take us to Kiyomizu. We asked a couple as we were trying to find our way and they pointed us in the right direction. Once we got into line the couple came back and gave us their 1 day pass since they were heading back to Osaka – sweet!
Once we got off the bus we first made our hike up the traditional streets to our first temple, Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple. Attached to the side of this temple is the Jishu Shrine where there are these Love Stones separated by a distance and if you can walk safely from one stone to the other with closed eyes then your love will be realized. It was pretty hilarious watching people attempt this without cheating or bumping into people.
It was such an incredibly hot day that after we were halfway through the temple we found a little snack shop that sold strawberry shaved ice and caved right away.
We took the obligatory photos around the area and then made our way down an intricate labyrinth of winding traditional Japanese streets with traditional homes, gardens. Today of course it’s purely souvenir shops with hoards of tourists walking up and down. I was okay with this because before long we discovered the mochi stores and oh my god what a discovery it was. What made these stores so godly was the fact that they had unlimited and unguarded samples out in the open for all their flavours. I just went about berserk at these stores. I’ve never had so many free mochi’s in my life. There were so many different flavours to try and to re-try of course.
These streets ended up taking up a good chunk of our afternoon that we were just able fit in one more temple at the end – Kodaiji Temple. Situated on the footsteps of the Higashiyama mountains. It was a very quiet and serene. It even had it’s own zen garden. This temple was a little bit more interesting as well because we got to walk through some of the building’s ancient corridors.
We walked further north along the main pathway with a detour to Yasaka Shrine but after passing the Maruyama Park (famous for it’s cherry blossoms when in season), Chion-in Temple and Shoren-in Temple were closed so we basically just walked by them before turning around and following a canal to the main street of Shijo Street.
A Surprise Food Festival
We didn’t exactly have plans for a restaurant and initially I thought we could eat around the Gion area (Geisha district) but we walked across the bridge to find that there was a local festival happening which worked out perfectly for us. Along the main river, it was main a food festival so we got down there and started lining up for stuff that looked good. We had food all along the festival and walked to the other end and back. By the time we were back we were stuffed and exhausted from a very long day.
We decided to then just cab back (quite expensive) and call it a night at the ryokan.
Staying at a ryokan is part of the whole Kyoto cultural experience as this is how Japanese used to live hundreds of years ago. Since you’re in the cultural capital of Japan you might as well do as the Japanese ancestors. However most ryokans that you find around the city are quite expensive and tailor to the more wealthy with a ton of amenities and services. I was seeing costs upwards to 150+. Since we were looking for something a bit economical, Ryokan Shimizu was perfect. In a way it was more like a hostel than anything except they only offered private rooms and each of the rooms are furnished in the ryokan style with the tatami bamboo mats, minimal furnishings and small mattress. Ours was definitely not fancy as you might see from some of the pictures but since we were barely staying at our ryokan and most of the time was on the road I thought we experienced enough to know what a ryokan is about. That being said if I ever go back to Kyoto I might dish out a bit more money for one night in a fancier ryokan just to see what it’s like. To complete the package we were also able to try a traditional Japanese breakfast the next day which is another big reason why people try to stay at a ryokan.
- When you travel without a guide you kind of lose sight of some of the fun facts but feel free to zoom into some of the plaques we took pictures of haha.
- Definitely try out a ryokan while you’re in Kyoto. For something on the budget side of things Ryokan Shimizu is perfect. It’s clean, it has it’s own en-suite bathroom and is close to transportation. Get the ryokan experience for a fraction of the cost.
- You can easily spend a full day in the Higashiyama Area and I would highly recommend it if you have 2 days to work with.
- Breakfast at Hostel 64 Osaka
- Subway + JR to Kyoto
- Drop off bags at Ryokan Shimizu
- Lunch at a fast food place
- Bus to Gojozaka Stop
- Walk to Kiyomizu-dera + Jishu Shrine
- Explore traditional streets to shop and sample mochi
- Kodaiji Temple
- Walk through Yasaka Shrine Maruyama Park
- Look at Chion-in and Shoren-in Temples from afar
- Local food festival off of Shijo Street by the river
- Cab back to Ryokan Shimizu
To read about my adventures on our second day in Kyoto where our highlight was definitely the Fushimi Inari Shrine, check out Day 77 – Kyoto – Infinite Torii Gates.
If you’re looking to do any travelling around Japan, I highly recommend picking up a JRailPass. Keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase it before your trip and ship it to your home.
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.