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Days in Kyoto

As I mentioned in my post about Osaka, we spent our nights in Osaka and days plus evenings on Friday and Saturday in Kyoto. Since our plans got squished a bit, we didn’t get to as many sights as I had wanted to in Kyoto, but we did get to visit some of the key ones, and were able to keep our plans to go to one of the best restaurants in the city.

On Friday we took a Japanese Rail train up to Kyoto early so we could make our lunch reservations at the famous Kichisen. This was probably the best meal we had on our trip. They serve the food in the Kaiseki tradition with their beautiful and fancy take on many of the traditional Kaiseki dishes. Upon arrival we were greeted by the hosts, took our shoes off and were led into our private dining room. We enjoyed tea as the courses began, and were impressed as each course was more dazzling and delicious than the last.

After that very long and satisfying lunch, we made our way to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden temple. Being the height of autumn tourist season it was incredibly busy. In order to get to the best views of the temple we actually had to wait and then work our way through the crowds. Fortunately the photos didn’t reflect the madness and I got some really great shots, like this one which is now my desktop background.

The temple complex closed around five and we made our way to over to the Kyoto Imperial Palace complex. It’s a massive park, and while we didn’t have tickets for a tour inside the palace areas, we were able to walk around it, explore the trails in the park.

Outside the Imperial Palace

We also enjoyed finding other little temples and ponds. It was a beautiful way to spend time as the sun set.

Another small temple in Imperial park

From there we went to the Gion district and walked around for a while before stopping for some tea. We had a late evening dinner at Roan Kikunoi, which was another Kaiseki-style meal. This time we were seated at a bar with several other patrons and the courses came out mostly at the same time for all of us. The dishes were good, I particularly enjoyed the sashimi courses.

Saturday morning was spent in Osaka, but we made it to Kyoto in the afternoon to go to Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Temple. The temple is not silver, but it’s called that to distinguish it from the Gold Temple across town that we saw the day before.

MJ and I at the silver temple

It was a nice walk around the grounds of the temple, and then you climb a series of stairs to get a view of the city of Kyoto.

View from hill at silver temple

We had reservations at Tagoto Honten for dinner on Saturday. We once again had a Kaiseki-style meal but this one was much more casual than the day before. By this time we were getting a little tired of the style, but there was enough variation to keep us happy.

I’m sure our whirlwind tour of the city hardly did it justice. While we knocked out some of the key attractions, there are dozens of smaller temples, a castle to tour, plus the imperial palace and I’ve heard there’s a long climb up a hill where you can see and feed monkeys! A dinner with a geisha was also on our list, but we couldn’t make those reservations with our time restraints either. We’d definitely also work to reserve far enough in advance to stay in Kyoto itself, as while the train rides to Osaka were easy and short, all told we probably spent an hour in transit when you factor in deciding a route, walking to and from the stations. On the topic of transit, we ended up taking cabs around Kyoto more than we did in the rest of Japan, partially because we were often short on time, and otherwise because the rail system just isn’t as comprehensive as other cities we went to (though buses were available). It was noteworthy to share that the cabs are metered, very clean and all had friendly, professional drivers.

We don’t often make solid plans to revisit a place we’ve been to together, as there are so many places in the world we want to see. Japan is certainly an exception. Not just because we missed our segment in Tokyo, but because a week isn’t nearly enough time to enjoy this country I unexpectedly fell in love with.

More photos from our adventures in Kyoto here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157659834169750