First stop on my trip was the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. The earliest structures in the complex were built in 711. In fact, it predates the city of Kyoto! The shrine is famous for its thousands of vermillion torii gates. If you've seen that classic picture of the long winding path completely covered in torii gates, then it's from Fushimi Inari Shrine. It's an incredibly huge complex that winds up a mountain. But it's definitely worth spending half a day here just to explore the grounds.
Nijo Caslte was built in 1603 as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is famous for its nightingale floors, floors that wail and squeak as you step on them. The idea was the sound of the floors would prevent any assassins from sneaking into the castle without warning.
Not only is this castle absolutely gorgeous, but you are also allowed to enter the building. This is quite a rare and wonderful treat. Unfortunately, you cannot take photos inside. So I can only show you pictures of the beautiful facade.
Of all our stops, I thought this was the most beautiful building by far.
Kinkaku-ji is one of the most popular destinations in Kyoto. It is a Zen Buddhist temple that has the upper floors completely covered in gold. It is such a beautiful and breathtaking sight. The original building dates back to 1397. But unfortunately the building was burnt to the ground by a monk in 1950 who they say was driven insane by the beauty of the temple. Five years later the pavilion was rebuilt as close to the original design as possible.
Uji is a small city between Kyoto and Nara. It was the home of the infamous Fujiwara clan during the Heian Period. The town is famous for its matcha and tea production. It is also the city Lady Murasaki based her Tale of Genji on.
In Uji, I was very lucky to sit in on a special tea ceremony at Nakamura Toukichi. Before the ceremony, we learned how to grind tea by hand and take a turn and using the grinding wheel. It’s so much heavier than you’d think! The people who work there are all exceptionally strong.
After that, we walked back through the garden and had a private tea ceremony. It was so peaceful and amazing. I absolutely recommend anyone who goes to Kyoto makes a stop in Uji.
While we were in Uji, we also went to Byodoin Temple, located in the city. The temple was built in 1052 and is still the original structure. The main fixture is the Phoenix Hall. You can in fact see this building on the back of a ten yen coin! It’s a very beautiful building built in a small man made pond.
Gion is famous as the most prestigious Geisha district in all of Japan. Although in Kyoto, they call themselves geiko, not geisha. If you’re lucky, you can see geiko and maiko flitting from tea house to tea house doing their nightly rounds.
I was indeed lucky enough to see a few geiko myself, although I didn’t get a chance to see a maiko. The area is quiet beautiful, although if you’re not looking to spend insane amounts of money, there isn’t much to do in the area.
Here are just some random pictures taken while I was in Kyoto.
Here are two videos from my trip. The first one is a demonstration of the Nishijin Ori weaving technique. And the second one is me freaking out about a geiko in Gion.