Main image of article: 7 days in Kyoto

7 days in Kyoto

The cultural capital of Japan

First winter rain--
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.

Matsuo Basho

This short poem is a Japanese haiku, a capture of an instant. As is Japan, it combines both poetry and strict rules. For those who wish to spend a week on the spot, I suggest they stayed at a ryokan, an authentic Japanese guesthouse. The former capital of Japan has some hidden gems you won’t want to miss. Nonetheless I will uncover for you some must-have experiences thus be open- minded …

The famous 3200 tori

To start with, stroll through the uncanny shrine of Fushimi Inari. The 3200 tori make this alleyway a symbol of Kyoto. Businessmen are the ones who donated every single arch of this iconic monument. How come they chose Inari’s hill to erect a shrine? Inari as the goddess and patroness of rice crops embodies prosperity. Not only will you take superb pictures, but you will also enjoy the pristine ambience of Japanese woods.  

Arashiyama's amboo grove

At the bamboo grove of Arashiyama remember Tiger and Dragon. Some say: “standing amid these sprawling bamboo stalks is like being in another world”. In order to make the most of this top sight make sure you get there when the sun is at its zenith. On the spot I recommend taking the path which leads to the Okochi villa. From the top the view is stunning, and the garden is enchanting. Besides, you will be offered a Japanese tea which I confess I find a bit bitter!  

Kiyomizu-dera, sanctuary in the sky.

Kiyomizu-dera is renowned for its verandas overlooking the waterfall. Till 1995 those who survived the 13 m jump would see their wish come true! Guess what: the shrine on stilts was built without using a single nail. I must confess I have kept a vivid memory of the fortune papers waving in the winds making the bells tinkle… Then you will follow the flow of Japanese girls wrapped in shimmering kimonos for whom the entrance is by the way free of charge.             

The Golden Pavilion

At the Golden Pavilion read again Mishima’s novel. It was inspired by the true story of a fanatic monk who set the Golden Pavilion on fire in 1950. In spite of the Buddhist sobriety the walls of this renovated pavilion are covered in gold leaf and reflect into the pond. Furthermore, the roof is topped with an impressive phenix. Since 1994 the palace it has been registered on the UNESCO world heritage.  

The Nijo Castle

Be a shogun at the Nijo castle and go back to the heyday of the Tokugawa dynasty. The powerful shoguns of the Edo period (around 1600-1868) confiscated the power till they were forced to surrender to the emperor. The later settled down in the palace in 1868 and formed a government launching the so-called Meiji period during which Japan opened itself up to the rest of the world and became a major power.

Kennin-ji temple

Sink into the zen culture at Kennin-ji temple. Located in the historic district of Higashiyama, it is here where the zen Rinzai, a branch of Buddhism based on sitting meditation was introduced to Japan in the 16th century. The splendid gardens consist of a dry garden as well as an inner garden covered with moss and hosting magnificent maple trees.

Nikishi foodmarket

 At Nikishi foodmarket treat yourself with some tasty specialities. Among them make sure you sample some local food such as Tsukemono, some marinated vegetables of a unique taste. After being a fishmonger’s in the early Edo period this market will give you the opportunity to feel the pulse of the city. Finally, I bet that your teenagers will enjoy the Wasanbon candies.

The philosopher's path

Follow the philosopher’s path in the Higashiyama district. This stone path was named after the thinker Nishida Kitaro. This was the way he used in this commuting to Kyoto University. Later on, some philosophers followed his footsteps. Over time it has become a must-sight for the Japanese and the visitors. This walkway which is lined up with hundreds of cherry trees is surreal when flowers are blooming.  

At Nikishi foodmarket treat yourself with some tasty specialities

NB: If you happen to travel to Japan in July, don’t miss the Gion festival! This annual event which takes places in July was first held in 869 in order to pray for deliverance from a plague of disease. Nowadays it celebrates Kyoto’s culture, and it has a parade with vibrant colours.

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