Trip to Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo 2015 – A Travelogue

If you wanted to see historical Japan, I would recommend a few days in Kyoto and a day-trip out to Nara. Tokyo, modern city of Japan, deserves a visit before returning home.

My wife and I went on this Japan trip from 11 May to 18 May, a total of 8 days. It was a free-and-easy trip and planning was done before the trip by reading travel guides, web-based research and advice from our daughter who made the trip before.

We flew on SIA and accommodations were Toyoko Inn – Shinagawa-eki Takanawa-guchi, Capsule Ryokan Kyoto, and Toyoko Inn – Shinagawa-eki Konan-guchi Tennozu.

The total cost for the trip came to S$1,650 per person. We went about the place on public transportation consisting of Shinkansen (bullet train), Japan Rail, Tokyo Subway and local public buses. No taxi at all.

Itinerary

Day One – Tokyo stay for one night
Day Two and Three – Kyoto
Day Four – Nara
Day Five – Back to Kyoto
Day Six and Eight – Tokyo

I will be showing only a few photographs of some places I had been in this travelogue (and there too many good photos) because there are good guidebooks written about Kyoto. You can read about the places in these books. The two books I relied on were: “Exploring Kyoto” by Judith Clancy and “Kyoto City Guide” by Lonely Planet.

Wonderful Kyoto

Kyoto is romantic and was an ancient capital since the eighth century. You can see old houses like the machiya (traditional wooden townhouses). Kyoto has several UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage sites.

We visited:

1. Downtown Kyoto

  • Shijio street (Kawaramachi, Karasuma area, with covered and linked walkways for pedestrians and shoppers)
  • Nishiki Market, Shinkyogoku Mall and Teramachi Mall
  • Kamo River
  • Ponto-cho (where geishas used to roam)
  • Takase River

2. Kiyomizu-dera (a hillside temple with clear spring water for drinking). This is a favourite place but far too crowded with visitors.

  1. Yasaka Shrine
  1. Kodai-ji Temple (with a zen garden)
  1. Fushimi Inari (up 4 kilometres the mountain with hundreds of red Torii – shrine gates lining the journey) Be warned that it was a long up to view the shrine at the top of the mountain.
  1. Tenryu-ji Temple and the famous Sogenchi Garden (my favourite place to zen out). The zen garden has a breathtaking view of a large pond, carefully manicured garden with Mount Arashimaya as backdrop. At the north gate of this place, one can proceed to walk the bamboo grove towards a train station of Sagano Romantic Train. This quaint train is worth a ride as it passes scenic Hozu River gorge and moves close to mountains of Arashimaya.
  1. Flea market on the grounds of Chion-ji Temple (near Hyakumanben bus stop), many stalls with gifts, crafts, fashion items, apparels, and food and drinks.
    Kiyomizu Temple, sacred spring water for drinking for good luck.

    Kiyomizu Temple, sacred spring water for drinking for good luck.

    Kiyomizu Temple

    Kiyomizu Temple

     

Tenryu-ji Temple and Sogenchi Garden

Tenryu-ji Temple and Sogenchi Garden

Sogenchi Garden

Sogenchi Garden

Bamboo Grove at Arashimaya

Bamboo Grove at Arashimaya

Fushimi Inari - The torrii

Fushimi Inari – The torrii

Dining under the sky at River Kamo

Dining under the sky at River Kamo

Todai-ji Temple, Nara

Todai-ji Temple, Nara

Daibutsu (Great Buddha)

Daibutsu (Great Buddha)

Naramachi Koshi-no-ie Lattice House

Naramachi Koshi-no-ie Lattice House

Naramachi neighbourhood

Naramachi neighbourhood

Nara

Nara is Japan’s first permanent capital. We took a day-trip out to Nara. It is less than an hour train ride from Kyoto on Kintetsu (Limited Express) train.

We visited:

  1. Deer park where deer roam freely.
  1. Kofuku-ji Temple (beside the deer park) – Main temple is undergoing reconstruction.
  1. Todai-ji Temple with its huge daibutsu (Great Buddha) bronze and gold statue. Another World Heritage site.
  1. Naramichi with many well-preserved machiya (traditional Japanese townhouses). We went into one called Naramachi Koshi-no-ie Lattice House. Admission is free for all visitors. We were very impressed. The neighbourhood of Naramachi has many stand-alone shops but it was a pity that most shops closed on a Thursday.

Tokyo

The two days in Tokyo were spent shopping mainly.

We visited:

  1. Nippori Fabric town
  1. Yanaka Ginza (a touristy place)
  1. Tennozu Isle (where we stayed for the nights)
  1. Harajuku – visited Yoyogi Park where roses bloom at this time of the year
  1. Shinjuku – visited Takashimaya Times Square
  1. Design Fiesta at Tokyo Big Sight (to check out design items and crafts)
  1. Ikebukuro (for last minute shopping before hitting the airport). We went to Muji store at Seiyu building, Junkudo a Japanese bookshop facing Seiyu).

Final words

Moving around these places using public transportation was not a problem with maps and guides readily available. There are tourist information centres where one can ask for assistance in English. Eating can be reasonable if one makes effort to find these Japanese foods and it was not difficult. By going on our own and not be part of a tour group was the best thing. We had the freedom to plan what we wanted to do and sometimes went ahead of the crowd.

Copyright © 2015, limkimtong for Living Investment

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5 Responses to Trip to Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo 2015 – A Travelogue

  1. Mich says:

    If available, it will be great if you can share your itinerary/planning/bus routes (google doc?) for the trip.

    • limkimtong says:

      The books I mentioned above provide an excellent write-up of Kyoto. They also provide the way to get to these sites. Armed with this information, we then looked out for the way. Part of the fun of a free-and-easy trip is to get lost some times. The many photos taken were memorable and the immersion in Japanese culture was the best on this trip.

  2. Anon says:

    Nice pictures. Thanks.

  3. B says:

    I miss japan already. Went there for my honeymoon and we wanted to go back one day.

    One thing we miss is the bamboo groves at kyoto there. Was it good?

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