When I first booked my flight to Japan (very spur of the moment I might add) everyone was telling me I just HAD to schedule in a visit to Kyoto. One of my friend’s from Melbourne was going to be there shortly after I was due to arrive too, so it made sense for me to make Kyoto a priority.
Kyoto is a good 2 1/2 hour ride on the bullet train from Tokyo – but it’s well worth the time (and train boredom). Kyoto has that old world feel to to it, mixed with a little trendy modernity and a little tourism to go with it. However, somehow Kyoto still eludes that “tacky” label that most popular travel destinations tend to capture.
The book/movie Memoirs of a Geisha was set in Kyoto, so if you happened to see the film you will remember how gorgeous the setting was. I can vouch the real deal doesn’t disappoint either! Although I would love to come in the Spring time as well.
I stayed modestly at Gojo’s Guesthouse with my friend and her lovely travel buddy, which is a cute little hostel – minus the feral hostel vibe. THANK GOODNESS. I’m not much of a hostel goer but I must say Gojo’s is pretty cool. I would definitely stay there again!
I arrived Monday evening and made my way over to Gojo’s to meet up with Marli and Emily. Kyoto station is a sight to be seen in itself. A Canadian businessman, whom I met on my way from the Shinkansen to the exit, delighted in telling me of the French architect who designed the station and how it’s truly a work of art. At first I wasn’t too convinced it was any different to any other station I’d seen in Japan…until I did rounds of the extremely large building and noticed all the intricate details and style involved. It really is impressive! After settling in we met up with some of their friends from Melbourne and went out for dinner in a cute little Kyoto laneway. Kyoto is somewhat pricey, but you soon find out it’s well worth the extra coin. I had my first ever Sukiyaki experience and can 100% see what all the fuss is about. At first, the thought of dipping meat into raw egg made me want to vom….but once you take the plunge you understand the necessity of this step. I am hooked! I can’t wait to find some Japanese restaurants in Perth who offer it on their menu! Keeeeeeen!
Tuesday was dedicated to some sight seeing; the Fushimi Inari Shrine, The Golden Temple and Ryoanji Temple were our main stops. We also strolled the markets and tried plenty of delicious, or as Marli would say “lit” food (hehehe). Side note, the karaage (fried chicken) in Kyoto markets is next level.
My friends from Perth joined us for brunch on Wednesday at this super chic cafe/gallery called Efish. As we are all coffee addicts Down Under, we were well overdue for a decent caffeine fix. Australians might be coffee snobs, but one thing we definitely hold over Japan is good coffee. Marli assured me Efish would be on point and she wasn’t lying. We literally drank bowls of latte, kind of French style, and had a break from Japanese cuisine with some curry, chowder and sandwiches.
Kyoto is the region of the onsens too, which makes the trek worthwhile in itself. If I haven’t made it clear from the 100 times I’ve already mentioned it, I adore hot springs!!! It’s just a beautiful experience. After Efish I jumped on the JR en route to Sagano Onsen Tenzan-No-Yu. I had visited 2 onsens before this, one in Kyoto near the guesthouse and one in Odaiba, however, I had heard good things about Sagano so wanted to see what the fuss was about.
I visited Sagano Onsen Tenzan-no-Yu. A natural hot spring pumped from 1200m. Unlike the Kyoto onsen I visited, Sagano is more like a super sento. This means that it’s a much larger onsen with extra facilities such as massage, exfoliation (let me get to this later), fish pedicures and a restaurant and all your beauty products and towels are provided for you. There is next to no english there so it was quite a funny experience for me as usual, with plenty of hand gestures, laughs and wrong turns. The baths were amazeeee and I am so glad I took the train ride to western Kyoto for this experience. I read Sagano is a sodium-calcium chloride spring and the salt content stays on your skin preventing your sweat from evaporating, so it keeps you warm for a long time. The outdoor pools was incredibly relaxing and my battle-hardened feet were thanking me for sure.
I opted for a full-body exfoliation afterwards similar to what I had in Odaiba. The same result occurred with actual piles of (gross) skin shedding from my body. And I exfoliate in the shower regularly so I can only imagine the mountains of skin flaking off from others!!!!!! It’s a gross and exhilarating experience. Much like the image of a snake shedding it’s skin ha ha.
Unfortunately my Kyoto stay came to an end and I am now back in Tokyo. Can’t complain, I worship Tokyo it’s just so crazy and intense. Kyoto has a much more relaxed feel to it and both are amazing to encounter.
Alright, one must shower now. It’s my last day here and I still have plenty of things to catch you up on.