Kyoto is empty, well not really. But with the current health scare, gone are the Edo Period streets filled with tourists. With this kind of opportunity, here are the 10 things to do in Kyoto while the tourists are still away.
Travel Budget Breakdown
|Hotel||$22 (per day, capsule)|
|Transport||$2 – $18 (Depending on destination)|
|Food||$5 – $20 (per meal)|
|Entrance Fees||$4 – $7 (per tourist spot)|
|Shopping||$9 (clothes) / $27 (shoes) /
$5 – $9 (small souvenirs) / $9 (chocolates)
#10 Reflect inside Kinkakuji Temple
There’s an entrance fee of 400 Yen in this place and it might be a bit of a letdown, to be honest. Like it’s brother temple, Ginkakuji (silver temple), Kinkakuji (golden temple) is just your typical Japanese building situated on a lake. The surrounding garden is beautiful, but that’s just that. If you’re a little bit in a rush, you can skip this place, but if you have time, then go visit it. (Note: it has a cool ticket entrance, see photo above). Geek Rate: Aeolus Worthy (1 out of 5 stars).
#9 Visit the Kōfuku-ji Temple
Just beside the Nara Deer Park is the Kōfuku-ji Temple that was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples in the city. Geek Rate: Mortal Worthy (3 out of 5 stars).
#8 Be one with nature in the bamboo forest of Arashiyama
This sought after Instagram spot is inside the Tenryuji temple grounds. It’s just your ordinary bunch of bamboo trees but it really looks good in photos. The place is swamped by tourists but with the ongoing COVID scare, few tourists visit the place so crowd control is no problem. (Note: The street leading to this temple is a cool site). Geek Rate: Thief Worthy (2 out of 5 stars).
#7 Marvel at Todai-Ji temple’s grandeur
Inside Nara Deer Park lies the Todai-Ji temple. There’s a story that during the year 710, Nara was established as Japan’s first permanent capital known then as Heijo. However, as the influence and political ambitions of the city’s powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved away from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 and a few years later to Kyoto. The massive temple houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues. Then there’s the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden gate watched over by two fierce-looking statues representing the Nio Guardian Kings. Geek Rate: Mortal Worthy (3 out of 5 stars).
#6 Go see some herds of deer in the nearby Nara Deer Park
Just beside Kyoto is the town of Nara, famous for its Deer Park. From Nara station, there’s a bit of a walk to reach the park. We learned that those herds of deer are violent, attacking tourists who are slow enough to feed them cookies. The place is open even after daylight and the herds seemed to be gentle especially when it is raining, just minding their own business. Just don’t get too near them, if you want to be safe. Geek Rate: Thief Worthy (2 out of 5 stars).
#5 Ramen hunting in Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station is one of the grandest stations in Japan. I like this one more than the ones in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, or even the famous Tokyo Station. The station has a cool mall attached to it, on top of which is a whole floor dedicated only for ramen. With so many ramen restaurants to choose from, you’ll definitely satisfy that craving. Geek Rate: Mortal Worthy (3 out of 5 stars).
#4 Buy cool souvenirs to take home
Kyoto is also a good place to get some legit Japanese souvenirs for you to take home. Whether it is in Fushimi Inari, or the streets of Gion, you can find loads of cool stuff here: from miniature torii gates for sale, cool Kabuki masks used in Noh theater plays, miniature statutes of well-known shoguns, traditional Japanese clothes, and those signature emperor and empress dolls they display during Doll’s Day.
#3 Visit the vermilion torii gates of Fushimi Inari temple
An important Shinto shrine, Fushimi Inari temple is famous for its vermilion torii gates. This temple is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The JR Inari Station is the easiest access to this Shinto temple, just go out of the station and then puff! There you are at the entrance! For those using subways, you need to walk a bit further to reach it, but the neighborhood is an interesting sight to see nonetheless. The main temple sits on top of Mount Inari, so there’s more climbing involve if you’re up to it. You’ll be rewarded with a nice view on top and a visit to the oldest cemetery just below the main temple. The place on top is also ideal for an Instagram photo with the torii gates, as the place is climbed by a few people. At the top, you can have your shots there undisturbed. Geek Rate: Mortal Worthy (3 out of 5 stars).
#2 Stop by and treat yourself of some street foods
Situated below the Shinto temple Fushimi Inari is a street filled with food vendors selling various food that you can find only in Japan, or in Kyoto for that matter.
#1 Go back in time in the streets of Gion
The highlight of your visit to Kyoto is the old district of Gion that will transport you back in time with its cobbled streets, medieval period houses, and tourists dressed in traditional Japanese dresses. Kyoto served as Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868 and Gion is its most famous geisha district. This one is a bit tricky to find even when using Google Maps. Go down to the Gion-Shijō Station and walk towards the side streets that do not look like it will lead you to this tourist spot. Here you can buy some awesome Japanese stuff, try some local food, drink tea while sitting inside a traditional Japanese house, and spot some legit Geisha if you’re lucky. Geek rate: Sky god worthy (5 out of 5 stars).
Geek Guide Data
|People – The Japanese are most courteous people in the world, though not the warmest (that would be the Filipinos). The people in Kyoto are more friendly than let say those in Tokyo.|
|Immigration – Stern officers but efficient nonetheless, the line in the immigration counters in Kansai International Airport (the gateway to Kyoto) is short and you’ll get out of the airport in a breeze.|
|Transport – Kansai’s train system (where Kyoto and nearby Nara are located) is the best in the world but you need some Google Maps mastery and patience to navigate the maze that is Japan’s subways and railways.|
|WiFi and power plugs – The WiFi connection in Japan is awesome and super fast. Free WiFi in every place! The voltage in Japan is 100 Volt, which is different from North America (120V), Central Europe (230V) and most other regions of the world.|
|Shopping and English – English in this place is almost non-existent, as is the case on most countries in Asia (except The Philippines and Singapore). Trying to communicate will be a challenge but most locals have adapted to the influx of tourists that they can understand a bit of English. This country is a shopping heaven.|
|Weather – Japan has four distinct seasons: March to May is spring; June to August is summer; September to November is autumn; and December to February is winter. Each season has very different temperatures and climates.|