Overdoing it: Apparently we’ve made a habit of trying our hardest to fit a month’s worth of experiences into a week’s time. True to fashion, our Japan trip was no exception. While we did hit every city on our list, we did have to sacrifice long stays in some amazing spots like Kyoto. We made our lists and consulted the local bus times and quickly realized that it would be impossible to check everything off in one day. So… we decided to seek some local help. Thankfully we found just the guy. After a few short emails we had it all planned out and our dreams of making the most of one day was happening.
9AM – First we headed to Komyion Temple to take in the temple and zen garden in the morning light. This temple is away from the center of town and not marked on any travel guide we could find and that made it perfect. We were able to learn about the temple, the monk, and the garden in peace and enjoy the quiet.
10AM – We took a short ride to Fushimi Inari Shrine to walk through the Torii and take all the pictures you see all over instagram. It’s busy, there is no way around it, but the earlier the better and it’s well worth the crowds.
11AM – Nishiki Market – Again, it’s crowded, it’s touristy, but it’s an experience you need. The smells, the sounds, and the people. Shop for tea, grab a Dango, try some sparrow (yeah, that’s your call), and be delightfully surprised by the Snoopy store.
12PM – Lunch! Anything you eat in Kyoto is going to be great. We went to Teramachi Sarashina. It was a particularly hot day so we opted for the cold vegetable soba. Perfectly seasoned broth with great soba noodles all topped with fresh tempura veggies. *Note: this is Japan so the staff speaks Japanese(obvi) but the staff is friendly and they do have an English menu thanks to our guy Kosuke.*
1PM – We made a bonus stop at a Daruma Temple. During our stay in Japan I grew quite found of Daruma dolls and by chance there is an entire temple dedicated to them in Kyoto. Again, this temple is off in a residential area and not in the guide books. In a word, GO, this was a fantastic little temple with a tranquil zen garden and an extensive gathering of Daruma dolls.
2PM – Coffee! When you are trying to fit everything into one day, staying caffeinated is key and, in what has become one of our new favorite coffee cities, Kyoto is delivering. If you can only hit up one spot, Nijo Koya is the pick. We could spend days here just enjoying the space and the roasts.
*** Pro-Tip from unprofessionals***
Get your coffee to go! Trust us… you have your coffee – now take a short drive to the local market on Sanjo-dori Street and grab yourself a Crème brûlée donut at Brûlée Kyoto. That’s the secret magic combo, the one two punch. These guys are cramming all of that Crème goodness in a donut and brûlée-ing it right there in front of you. You’re welcome.
2:45PM – Now without a car this one is a bit of a hike and we would not have been able to fit it in if we didn’t have one. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple – this place is still not in a lot of guides but it is picking up in popularity so might want to get in on this one now. Over 1200 stone statues, shrines, and the mountains. This was one of our favorite stops in all of Japan. Also, you can pick you the monks latests albums. So yeah, that’s chill.
3PM – This next place isn’t really a stop so much as it is a scenic drive through the Arashiyama area. Into the mountains no matter the season, spend some time by the river, and drive through the spooky tunnel.
4PM – Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – You have seen it on the gram, it’s Kyoto’s top site, and I get it. The grove is beautiful. It’s well taken care of and it’s peaceful even when crowded. Standing in the middle of the bamboo towering above you, you really feel you are in Japan. It’s a hard feeling to describe but once you feel it you know.
4:30PM – Finish your day with a short walk from the Bamboo Grove to the Katsura River, stopping at all the shops along the way. Get some sakura ice cream, some green tea cookies, and sit by the river watching the locals take wedding photos and kids playing in this picture perfect park.
This is not the definitive guide to Kyoto, it’s not even close. This is how we chose to spend our day in Kyoto and fit in our top things while still leaving the night free to explore & eat. This could not have been possible without hiring our new friend Kosuke. So if you’re heading to Kyoto and want to try to pack your day with must sees hit him up here.
**Not sponsored – We paid for our tour**