The beautiful ancient city Kyoto, former imperial capital of Japan founded in 794, has over 1600 temples, more than 400 shrines, and 17 UNESCO world heritage sites. During our short visit, we only can visit several places, and cannot wait to go to another visit.
Nijo-jo castle is one of my favorite places in Kyoto. Unlike other overcrowded historical site, it is a large and tranquil place. We could actually take time to enjoy the beautiful castle. Nijo-jo castle has witnessed the history of Tokugawa family of fifteen generations, who had been ruling japan for over 260 years from 1603 to 1868. Nijo Castle was built in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Japan changed from a feudal society into the modern democratic nation, and Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city.
After we entered the gate, we visited the Ninomaru-goten Palace. Consisting of six connected buildings, elaborate decorated Ninomaru-goten Palace was residence of shoguns in Kyoto. We were certainly impressed by the beautiful wall paintings showing the power and wealth of the shoguns family when walking inside the building.
Overall, the Ninomaru-goten Palace,the Kara-mon Gate and Ninomaru Garden witness the one of most important Japanese history and architecture.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari honors the Shinto Shrine, Inari, the God of rice. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion tori gates. The visitors can also explore the mountain trails. The board maps are very helpful to show the regular route.
Kiyomizu-Dera temple is a Buddhist temple (literally translated “Pure Water Temple”). The temple is famous for its large wooden stage. It is also known for bring the luck in longevity, success in school and finding love form drinking the water from streams of Otowa Waterfall.
Monkey Park Iwatayama
Monkey Park Iwatayama is another our favorite. You have to hike up to a mountain, but it is worth to do so when you reach to the top and see the beautiful top view of the Kyoto and over one hundred of monkeys. There are interesting information boards on the mountain too. Do not be scared. These monkeys will not attack people. Just remember not to feed them by yourself. If you want to experience to feed the monkeys, go inside a house to buy food to feed the monkeys and watch how cute the baby monkeys. You may be surprised to see the mother monkey grab the food from her baby’s mouth to herself. Actually it is not totally her fault. People focus on the babies and forget that the mother needs food to nurse the babies.
Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama
Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama has a fabulous view. In Asian culture, bamboo is a symbol of beauty, moral integrity, modesty and loyalty.
Beautiful Scenery in Kyoto
Kyoto has beautiful nature scenery with mountains, rivers and ancient alleys.
The night view on the bank of Kamogawa River in Kashiwayacho is stunning. We could sit there for hours. Pontocho is one of Kyoto’s most special dining areas. It is a narrow alley one block west of Kamogawa River. The alley is packed with restaurants on both sides.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment 10 minutes from Nijo JR Station, also closed to the Nijo-jo Castle. Walking around local neighborhood and nice clean narrow alleys, I felt the peaceful daily life of japaness.
Renting a kimono
Many people, especially women, are wondering about the experience of wearing a kimono. In Japan, you have plenty opportunities to rent one.
I rented a kimono in Kyoto. You can find several renting places by Google searching. I reserved mine online. Make sure you reserved the earliest time of the day. Otherwise you only have choices after other people did not pick. You also have to return the kimono at the end of day.
When I went to rental store, I chose the kimono and the obi (sash). The rental people gave me a white juban to wear under the kimono. The rental staff helped me to dress in kimono. Then another rental staff did my hair. I also picked up a small purse and shoes. I bought the Kimono insurance although it was optional. Now I had a pretty kimono for myself.