Japan is an incredibly interesting and beautiful country, and Kyoto is perhaps its most historically significant city. We recently spent a weekend in Kyoto, Japan’s former capital. There wasn’t enough time to see and do everything, but we managed to hit several of the highlights.
Kyoto is easy to get around by subway, bus, and train. It’s also a very pedestrian friendly city. We flew into Kansai Airport in Osaka. From there, it’s easy to take a train or an Airport Limousine Bus to the Kyoto main train station.
On our first day, we strolled through Nishiki Market to see all the various food vendors and sample some traditional dishes. Nishiki Market ends in the middle of Teramachi Market, a sprawling outdoor shopping plaza. We ate dinner at Tiger Gyoza, a small restaurant with delicious food along a side lane near the intersection of Nishiki Market and Teramachi Market. From there, we crossed the river and walked over to the Gion District to see the geisha houses along the quaint cobblestone streets lit by paper lanterns. We strolled past a couple of the nearby Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines, which were closed by evening.
We explored the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine the following morning. With over 5,000 bright orange tori gates, sprawling gardens, extensive grounds, fox statues, and numerous miniature shrines, it’s good to allow a bit of time to explore this 8th century shrine. We grabbed some fresh fruit and soft serve ice cream from a couple of the nearby food vendors on our way back to the subway station.
We took a train over to Nijo Castle, where we explored the castle and learned a bit about Japan’s shogun history. The wooden floors within the buildings were designed to squeak in a manner simulating nightingales, as a security alert to detect ninja intruders. Our daughters enjoyed buying some pellets to feed the koi fish in the castle moat. Afterward, we grabbed lunch at the Shichifukujin ramen shop, just a block away.
In the afternoon, we walked around the beautiful gardens and grounds of Nanzen-ji, one of Japan’s most important zen temples. From there, we wandered over to the Kyoto City Zoo near Okazaki Park, per our kids’ request. It was free admission for kids under 15 and 600 yen for adults. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the zoo before grabbing dinner and ending our lovely weekend in Kyoto.