After seeing a lot of the mondern and busy side of Japan we were happy to go to Kyoto and slow everything down a bit. One thing many people warning about when visiting the city is overloading the itinary with temple-visits. The big risk is to be too busy with getting around and then not having the opportunity to actually enjoy them. With only 3 nights in the city we had to make cuts and select only a few of the many temples and historic districs.
We arrived at the train station with the Shinkansen train in the morning and headed to the hotel to check in and get rid of our luggage.
First sightseeing destination of the day was the Kiyomizudera Temple, but we also wanted to see some of the city and surrounding are on the way. We took the train for a few stops and then started walking through the Gion district for a quick bowl of Rahmen.
After lunch we started walking up the Higashiyama Temple District. The tourists kept coming in, so we made our way to the the temple and had a quick tour through it.
Higashiyama Temple District
Once finished we continued exporing the historic district, which is kinda touristy with a lot of souverniers.
We continued walking north to see a few more temples and parks a long the way before heading back to our hotel.
We started our day by going to Arashiyama, where the Tenryu-ji Temple with its Zen garden is located. To get there we took the bus, which was suprisingly easy to use with just Google Maps. I think it can be said that public transportaion is very good overall in Japan.
Right outside the temple continues the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
One of the hidden gems in the forest is the Okochi-Sanso Villa, which has more gardens, traditional buildings and a quiet tea-house
After having seen the area we found a place to get lunch on the main street. With so many tourist being in the area it wasn't acually that easy to find a nice spot.
Once we had our lunch we tried to head to our next stop: the Golden temple. Getting there turned out to be harder then expected. We didn't have internet and the bus stop signes we saw not very informative. After wasing some time we finally took the decision to take a taxi to get there.
The Golden temple is one of the main attractions of Kyoto, so we thought we should check it out. After being there though I would't recommend it. Masses of tourists walking through a pre-defined path with several souvenier shops along the way. I think this is a general problem with most of the "popular" temples in Kyoto. So think twice before deciding to go to those them.
We explored a few more temple areas before heading back into town and to the Nishiki Market
Initially we thought about making a day trip to Nara, a nearby temple city, on this day. After doing some more thinking we decided to do a local trip to Kurama And Kibune instead. Theses are small rural villages 30 minutes outside of Kyoto that a connected with a path trough a mountain with a temple along the way. Very few people we walking there that day so we had a nice time walking from one side to the orther and then back (all within a few hours). We could even witness a ceremony of monks in one of the temples.
We finished the walk with a visit to the local Kurama Onsen. We split up to the gender separated outdoor baths and relaxed for a while. A magical experience having the quiet atmosphere and looking at the mountains while sitting in the hot water. One of the highlights of the whole trip.
We had to leave around lunch, which gave us time to visit one more shrine. We opted for the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine, which gets a lot of praise for it's unique setup with so-called "Torii Tunnels" (see picture in link above, basically an endless number of shrine gates). If you ever go to Kyoto don't miss it!
That's it for this trip. To recap: I would recommend to not visit too many of those "tourist-traps" and instead look out for some of the less visited temples or go at times that are less busy (usually very early in the morning). Other than that: Try to have fun, Kyoto is a great city to explore!