Did you know that Kyoto has 17 World Heritage Sites? That’s a lot of awesome to choose from, but how can you get the most out of Kyoto? This historic town was once the capital and is one of the oldest cities in Japan. If you think gesihas, samurai, tea ceremonies, Gion, Japanese gardens and old Japan… Then… Kyoto is where the magic happens.
Day 1: Eastern Kyoto
Start your day early and go here first. If you go at 8am, there won’t be a crowd. A unique fact to this historic Buddhist temple is not a single nail was used in construction. The temple takes its name from a nearby river called Kiyomizu, meaning pure water. Enjoy the temple and when you come down, don’t forget to drink from the mountain to purify yourself! While the temple is the main attraction, the grounds are just as lovely. Japanese gardens are always carefully constructed with every tree, hill, pond, and lantern. There’s less people and more chances for great selfies.
Dress like a geisha
When in Japan do as the geisha do. Wait, what? One of the coolest things you can do is become an enchantress you’ve only seen in story books. I dressed up as a maiko (geisha apprentice) and had my very own photo shoot!
At Yumekoubou Studio, the friendly staff will first do your make up (so you don’t get it on the kimono). The make up will dry out your skin so they will put moisturizer on your skin, and then paint your face and neck white. After your makeup is finished they will lead you into a room where you can choose the kimono if you like.
You’ll be asked to strip down to your underwear and given a white slip to put on under the kimono. They only have small size kimonos and you’re pushing it if you’re a size 12 so be warned. They wanted to put me in an ugly grey one, but I felt really sad so they let me squeeze into a green flowery one. You’re taken into various rooms and told to do poses by a photographer. After the professional photo shoot, you are allowed to take as many of your own pictures as you’d like.
I highly recommend the Yumekoubou Studio with many convenient locations around Kyoto. The staff speaks English as long as you meet them halfway with some Japanese. To check out their studio and makeover plans, click here.
Yasui Konpiragu Shrine
This place is pretty darn cool and you can take loads of cool pictures here. Fun fact about this shrine, the deity enshrined here is called Yasui Konpiragu, the emperor Sutoku. He abandoned all worldly desires and now the shrine stands for prayer and abstinence. I guess if you’re trying to get some, don’t come here or you might jinx yourself.
Gion Bonus: Try to find a geisha at night
Take a Yebisu beer (Kyoto’s brew) and gather your courage. Most geisha entertain their customers at night. The best time to be a super creep is to walk around Gion during the late hours of 11pm and 5 am. You never know and you might get lucky. Most geisha feel burdened by how pushy tourists have become so tread lightly!
Day 2: Northern Kyoto
At whatever point you look at the rectangular plot, one of the fifteen rocks is hidden from view. The rock garden can be admired from Hojo, the former residence of the head priest. The only downside is Ryonaji was incredibly touristy and many people made the garden feel overwhelming to the point I couldn’t really enjoy it.
If you’re anything like me and you hate enormous crowds, then this is the place for you. Overlooked because of Kinkakuji and Ryonaji, this is a perfect and quiet temple. It’s a great place to get the feel of a real shrine without all the people. It’s well preserved and a must see.
This golden pavillion is the cream of the crop and often the face of Kyoto. What isn’t cool about a temple doused in a wonderful gold color?
You’ve seen the golden pavilion so why not up your game and see the silver pavilion too? When you get there, you’ll see why this brown temple is called as such. Like it’s golden counterpart, it boasts a silver rooster on the top. Don’t be disappointed that it’s not silver because the grounds are stunningly beautiful.
I’ve been to this palace three times and I’ve never grown tired of it. Once a grand warlord castle, you now have the opportunity to see how the warlords lived. The grounds are spectacular and the rooms inside are fantastic as well.
Day 3: Southern Kyoto
This is definitely a must see for all those of you who have seen Memoirs of a Geisha. This is currently the number one spot in Kyoto and attracts thousands of tourists each year. Ten thousand torii gates go up a mountain and it’s breathtaking. It’s a great spot to take pictures in yakata or kimono. Try hiking to the top as well!
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful temple in Kyoto. I love how it’s built near a bond and the colors are absolutely outstanding. The grounds are tranquil and peaceful. In addition, there won’t be as many tourists like with Fushimi Inari and and Kinkakuji.
Have you been to these places and would you recommend this itinerary to a friend? Looking forward to hearing about it!