About an hour northeast of Osaka Japan lies Kyoto, a former capital of the country, and still a cultural treasure housing more temples, shrines, and gardens than any visitor could hope to see (almost 2,000 by some estimates). As we would only be there for two days (three nights) this trip, we decided to hit some of the highlights, including some favorites that Jen and I had seen on previous trips to give our girls the chance to enjoy them as well. This is also the first time we’ve been in Kyoto during the cherry blossom season, which added a whole new level of beauty to the experience.
Here are the places we visited in Kyoto this trip:
Nijo Castle. Completed in 1626, this large palace surrounded by a moat and amazing gardens and ponds housed shoguns during the Edo period. It was also intentionally built with “squeaky floors” that sound like birds when walked on, to make it easier to detect intruders.
Maruyama Park and Gion. Walking around the streets of Gion gives you the feeling of stepping back in time, with the small wooden houses and lanterns, and especially if you’re able to spot a geisha (or even someone dressed like one). Maruyama Park is a large park in Gion with many cherry trees, temples and shrines.
Gion Corner. This is a place for tourists to get a sampling of Japanese cultural arts. In a short hour, you get to see the tea ceremony, koto playing, flower arranging, geisha dancing, court music and dance, comedic performances, puppets, and more. It’s fairly pricey (2800 yen for adults), but if you don’t have much time and won’t see these things elsewhere on your trip, it’s worth a visit.
Ryouan-ji. Like the last time I was in Kyoto 2 years ago, this temple was again my favorite. It’s a zen temple with a serene zen garden inside and amazing strolling gardens surrounding it. We spent some time meditating in front of the rock garden, which also had cherry blossoms cascading over the wall and raining down like snow (see the video below). In other parts of the garden, the mossy ground was almost completely covered in pink blossoms. Such a beautiful sight!
Arashiyama. We enjoyed this peaceful and picturesque town. We arrived somewhat late in the day, so didn’t make it to the monkey park or take a boat ride, but we enjoyed walking around the town and through the bamboo forest. The mountain backdrop was quite spectacular. Note: We started looking for a restaurant right before 6pm, and then everything started closing up, so if you want to eat dinner there, make it before 6.
Here are some videos and more pictures of the trip.