Going to Japan has never been such a good idea. Known for its temples and geishas, the city of Kyoto seduces with the richness of its heritage and its calm and zen atmosphere. Capital of peace and tranquility and above all cultural capital of the Rising Sun, Kyoto has kept the customs and traditions of ancient Japan. Mandalay makes you discover Kyoto in ten good addresses.
Kyoto is for many the most beautiful city in Japan . Located in the Kyoto prefecture, and with almost 1.5 million inhabitants in total, in this great city the comfort of a modern city is perfectly blended with a traditional Japanese atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else.
Walking through its narrow streets transports you directly to the ancient culture of this country, suddenly coming out to the great avenues full of delicious restaurants, ultra-modern shops, and a wide variety of leisure activities designed for both locals and tourists.
And it is that even the Japanese feel like tourists for a moment in this beautiful city, wearing a traditional kimono to take a walk through its many temples, shrines and traditional shops. If you also want to live the most authentic experience, you have to visit Kyoto.
Located in the center of southern Japan , it is also the perfect location to visit the many nearby cities and small towns of great tourist interest. On a visit to this country, Kyoto is, along with Tokyo, a mandatory stop for the traveler.
Why visit Kyoto?
When you arrive in Kyoto, the first thing you find is a big city full of large office buildings, houses and shopping malls . In it you can find all the facilities available in the developed cities of the world, with world-renowned food chains, as well as Japanese cosmetics, electronics, fashion and gastronomy chains.
But when you start to get further into the city, you discover that among the tallest buildings there are still small havens of peace that transport us directly to traditional Japan.
Small wooden houses in cobbled streets that are located in the neighborhoods of Pontocho and Gion, with artisan products and many places that take you back decades to when Kyoto had not yet become the big city that it is now.
You will be able to discover the old neighborhood of the Geishas , one of the few that is still faithful to its initial layout, and where there is the possibility of enjoying a traditional ceremony with them.
Temples through which time has not passed, and very good connections to other areas on the outskirts of Kyoto, which is a very pleasant visit, such as the bamboo forest and the Fushimi Inari temple, so well known worldwide for its many red torii.
Is Kyoto safe?
Like all of Japan, the city of Kyoto is completely safe , even more so than other cities in the country. This city is perhaps one of the most touristy, and since many people live in this sector, tourists are very careful in every way.
Although Kyoto is a much smaller city than Tokyo, the distances between its many tourist spots can be quite long. There is no risk of walking through any of its neighborhoods both during the day and at night, but to avoid the smaller and somewhat dark alleyways at night, it is always recommended to use public or private transport.
You have many cheap options such as the bus, with night services, as well as taxis and rickshaws pulled by men , which allow passage even on streets where cars cannot circulate.
How many days to spend in Kyoto?
The city of Kyoto itself can easily be visited in a couple of days . However, it is necessary to extend the visit a little longer if you want to see the many shrines, temples and tourist spots that are a little further from the center of Kyoto.
Two obligatory visits are, as we have already said, the well-known bamboo forest , in the nearby town of Arashiyama, and the Fushimi Inari temple with its thousand torii, which has its own train station.
When to visit Kyoto?
The city of Kyoto is perhaps one of the rainiest in Japan due to its location. Although there is not as much humidity as in other cities, since it is not located near the sea, its geographical location means that there is much more rainfall during spring and autumn.
Precipitation falls and then the sky is completely clear , so it can be visited at any time of the year, because there are always indoor and outdoor options that allow you to take advantage of every moment regardless of what the weather is like.
Walk under the Torii Tunnel
Going under the Torri Tunnel of the Fushimi Inari temple is a must stop to realize the culture of the country. This Shinto shrine, which is located southeast of Kyoto, has been designated a Cultural Heritage of Japan and many tourists visit it throughout the year. “Torii” is “the door” which separates the world of the Gods and the world of Men. There are more than ten thousand “torii” in the Fushimi Inari temple which form like a tunnel under which one can walk. The film “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2004) clearly shows this passage under the “torii”.
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Japan
Eat at Renkonya
To discover the best of Kyoto’s gastronomy, head for Renkonya, a small, comfortable and cozy restaurant. Here, it’s old-fashioned cooking: a large pot heats up atsukan (hot sake) and the chefs are busy preparing small traditional dishes, such as renkon karashi, a fried lotus root served with Japanese mustard.
236 Yamazakicho, Nishikiyamachidori Sanjo Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Stroll around the Nishiki Market
To really immerse yourself in Kyoto culture, a short trip to the Nishiki market is a must. 400 years old, this emblematic open-air market offers stalls with fresh, seasonal products, such as fruit and vegetables, fish caught at daybreak, or even woven baskets and pretty necklaces. This is the ideal place to come and taste local specialties and talk to local producers. The market is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for some.
Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
Sleep in a ryokan
How to spend a night in Kyoto without sleeping in a ryokan? These typical Japanese inns have a living room and Japanese-style bedrooms with sliding partitions, a coffee table in the middle of the room, and a futon placed on the floor. The ryokans are also equipped with hot baths, the onsen, whose water comes from thermal springs. An address in Kyoto? The Yadoya Manjiro ryokan, which smells of wood and tatami. When you wake up, the view of the garden bathed in light and the song of the birds will immerse you in a most Zen atmosphere. At the end of a traditional breakfast, the staff will offer you a session of wearing a kimono, as in the old days, and will introduce you to the tea ceremony. A pure moment of happiness.
2-208-17 Kiyomizu, HIgashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0862, Kyoto Prefecture
Taste a local pastry
In Kyoto, traditional Japanese pastries are a must try. Wagashi, cakes made with rice dough, cane sugar and adzuki beans, are found in the form of maple leaves, rabbit, soft or more gelatinous. These sweets of the rising sun are usually served during the tea ceremony and their tastes differ according to the seasons. Where to taste it? At Tsuruya Yoshinobu, a famous tea room that also offers a string of biscuits to accompany the different varieties of tea.
Imadegawadori Horikawanishiiri, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto
Walk the streets of Gion
What about the Gion district, except that it is a must in Kyoto. Lined with small shops, historic teahouses, sloping cobbled lanes and temples, Gion has so much to offer culturally. Here, no cars, no pollution. Just get lost in each alley, observe the inhabitants and their habits to fully immerse yourself in the history of Kyoto. We take the opportunity to walk along a pretty canal that runs along the typical restaurants of traditional Japanese houses, a witness to Japan of yesteryear and we pass by Hanamo Koji, the main street of the Gion district where you can see geishas.
Drink tea at Kasagiya
In Kyoto, we do not miss the inevitable tea ceremony. To do this, push open the door of Kasagiya, a tea room whose all-wooden frontage goes very easily unnoticed. Absolutely typical, this tea room exudes a relaxing and zen atmosphere. To order: a bowl of very frothy matcha tea accompanied by a sweetness made from anko (sweetened red bean paste).
Eat at Gion Maruyama
One of the must-try dishes in Kyoto is okonomiyaki, a kind of pancake cooked on a hot plate, made with Chinese cabbage to which shrimp, pork and vegetables are added. In the Gion district, the Gion Maruyama restaurant serves very good ones. The products are fresh, seasonal, and the staff warm and welcoming.
570-171 Giommachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Admire the view of the city
Of course, one cannot leave Kyoto without admiring the view offered by the city. From the hill and the temple of Shogunzuka, there is a large terrace with an exceptional panorama over the whole of Kyoto. At sunrise, sunset or at night, it’s magical.
28 Zushiokukacho-cho, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto 607-8456, Kyoto Prefecture