If you are trying to plan your itinerary in Japan, please invest at least 2 days in Kyoto. This was one of my biggest regrets while in Japan. The people that I asked about Japan told me to spend less time in Tokyo and more in Osaka, but didn’t really mention anything about Kyoto. Kyoto has some of the coolest things to offer in Japan from markets, shrines, forests, food, and so much more.
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Shibuya Station ➳ Tokyo Station ➳ Kyoto Station
I left very early from Kawaguchiko Station to get back to Shibuya Station. However due to rush hour, everything got pushed back an hour. So by the time I arrived at Shibuya, I ran to get on the train to Tokyo Station. After arriving at Tokyo Station, I reserved a seat on the Shinkansen to get to Kyoto. The officer told me that it was extremely busy due to Kyoto being one of the prime areas for people to see the cherry blossoms, so I was left with the middle seat.
Although I was stuck in the middle for the 2.5 hour train ride, it wasn’t too bad. I’d advise buying snacks before getting on and downloading some of your favorite Netflix shows to watch during the ride. I could be that person and say, “look outside and enjoy the view”. But the Shinkansen travels so fast, it’s difficult to enjoy something for more than a second and it’ll make you feel a little queasy after a while.
Kyoto Station is massive, an actual labyrinth. I spent 30 minutes trying to find a luggage storage area that would deliver my luggage to my hostel. However, since I did spend a solid 30 minutes trying to find it, I was too late for that option (they stop at 3 PM). But I still managed to store my luggage there for about ¥1500 until 9 PM. They do have lockers on almost every floor, however, the larger lockers are harder to come by compared to the smaller ones. So since I arrived at such a busy time, I was willing to pay the ¥1500.
The nice thing about Kyoto Station is that they do have areas that are meant to help tourists but they are kind of spread out, so good luck finding it.
Something to note, the JR Pass doesn’t really work all that well in places like Kyoto or Osaka. There are a few trains that do use the JR Passes, but not as many like in Tokyo. So I’d invest in the one day pass that they have there. Also, to get around Kyoto requires more busses than trains unlike Tokyo. So be prepared and either get a pass or have change.
To get to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, you can use your JR pass to get there. If you go down to the bottom floor of Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara Line towards Inari Station. It’s about two stops and you should get there in less than 10 minutes.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha is very famous for their torii path, the famous orange walkway with written messages on them. It’s also known as the fox shrine due to the many foxes that symbolize as messengers around the area.
The nice thing about this shrine is that it’s free and open all day, but be aware shrines and parks in Kyoto do close around 5 PM, so try and time everything as best as you can.
During the time that I went, they had extended hours for the cherry blossoms seasons until 9 PM. So make sure to check their website for their hours because they do have special autumn and summer hours too. You do have to pay to enter the main part of the grounds and get the main view of the Kiyomizu-dera.
I went super early in the morning around 6 AM, when they open and it was really nice. Unfortunately, the Kiyomizu-dera was under construction for repairs and maintenance, so I wasn’t able to see the beautiful Kiyomizu-dera like in the picture.
There’s this gated area in the back that you can go through, but there’s really nothing there. If you happen to be like me and decide to hike up the mountain there, don’t. It’s very steep, the path isn’t very clear, and it’s a little sketch. So I do not reccommend climbing that.
To get from Kyoto Station to Arayshiyama Forest, you can use your JR Pass. Go to the bottom floor and get on the JR San-In Line towards Sonobe. It’s about 15 minutes (6 stops), so get off at Saga Arashiyama Station. Afterwards, it’s more or less a 15 minute walk to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
Arayshiyama is so beautiful and this trip is at least half a day trip. To say the bamboo forest is beautiful would be an understatement. Even on a hot day, the forest provides relief from the heat.
Now, even though I admit, the bike picture of me is very cute. I do not recommend bringing a bike up that trail. For some reasons, bikes in Japan are more heavy duty than American bikes. So carrying that thing up the trail was a pain in the butt. As I was coming down to park my bike somewhere, I forgot how to brake and ran into a bush.
However, if you do want to rent a bike, there’s a bike rental place near Arayshiyama Station and you can park it at Tenryuji Temple. There’s a parking spot area for bikes and it’s totally fine to leave it since most likely nobody will take it.
Be prepared to walk in this area since it’s like a huge park with lots of temples, shrines, and places to see. Since I was so tight on time, I only went to Tenryuji Temple and walked around the bamboo forest, sadly.
I highly recommend going in the morning because you’ll be able to take more pictures with less people around. This forest is such a popular tourist destination that it gets easily filled and the flow of the trail can get very congested due to visitors. This can be very frustrating, but be patient cause we all want that perfect photo. 😉
I plan on going back and visiting more of the temples and seeing more of Saga-Arayshiyama with a better planned itinerary.
To get to Kinkakuji requires you to take the bus and it’s about a 45 minute drive from one of the Kyoto bus stations. If you plan on just going to Kinkakuji (the Gold Temple pictured above), make sure you get off at that one and not Ginkakuji (the Silver Temple). I did that and had to jump back on the train. So moral of the story is, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji are NOT the same thing.
To get into Kinkakuji, you do have to pay to enter. It is ridiculously crowded and can be very frustrating when you want to take a picture. There’s only one section that has a prime view of Kinkakuji and everybody want’s a picture with it. However, I’ve learned that sometime having pictures taken at a cool locations isn’t necessary to prove that you went there. Take in the moment and enjoy the view. 🙂
Maruyama Park is a really famous park in Kyoto to see the cherry blossoms. However, since it was a lot colder when I went compared to usual, they weren’t ready. 😦 On the bright side, there were sooooooooooooooo many street vendors selling food. I bought and ate so much food, I think this is where I blew most of my money that whole day…sorry mom. Do I regret it? Nahhhhhhhh.
There were so many vendors selling so many different types of food like takoyaki, yakisoba, grilled meat, desserts, daifuku, and more. I forgot to take more pictures of food after a while because food >>>> taking pictures of the food.
After finishing my very eventful day in Kyoto, it was time to go to Osaka!