At first, I was more excited for Tokyo and wasn’t too keen on Kyoto as it was kind of a detour, but my travel partner Connections really convinced me to discover Kyoto. I'm very happy Connections has this deep expertise on travelling, which in our case, was much appreciated, as it turned out to be some of the best parts of our entire Japan trip with a lot of unforgettable moments. It was also interesting to have a guide provided by Connections, who could fluently speak English ( which is very rare to find in Japan) and who knows well the area, as we had very few time and this way we could really experience Kyoto the best way possible. Kyoto is really very cute and more traditional than Tokyo. As Toyko is a big city, it felt quite generic as there are a lot of places that cater to tourists rather than allowing the Japanese culture to shine through, whereas Kyoto still has original Buddhist temples everywhere, big palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. You can also find geishas in full traditional makeup and dress walking around the streets, which is an unusual sight but fascinating to see culture like this and the modernity of new architecture and the metro side by side.
Here are some of my recommendations:
I bought the best matcha and green teas at the Ippodo Tea Store, it’s an authentic tea shop where you can try before you buy. The customer experience was almost ritualistic as I was seated while a lady prepared the tea for me, during which the time and temperature of the water gets measured very accurately, making an everyday drink feel really special - definitely worth a visit if you like tea!
Japan Handmade is a really well hidden place, which sells fabrics, not really for consumers but more for brands – Dior and Chanel buy their fabrics here for the interior of their stores, and you can buy vases and other interior decorations. Its very beautiful and peaceful, and the customer service is really welcoming. If you’re a fan of interior design, this store is a must.
In Kyoto they’re not really famous for good coffee but Maeda coffee shop was a really nice place to get a caffeine fix if you’re a coffee addict like me!
You also really need to see the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, but my top tip is to get there really early because it gets packed with tourists, and then it’s really hard to take any nice photos. Going very early in the morning to see the sunrise through the bamboo shoots is so magical and peaceful, I can’t recommend this enough.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates (traditional Japanese style) which feel magical to walk through. You need to take a couple of hours to go through it as we were quite limited in terms of time and we regret that we weren’t able to finish the whole area, but it’s breathtaking and a very photogenic place.
I’m going to do another post of my trip to Tokyo very soon, as I have so many photo’s and recommendations to share with you guys. If you need really urgent advice on what to see and do there, then please let me know by the comments! XO Sofie