Our honeymoon series:
Part 1: United First Class from SFO-NRT
Part 2: How to Get to Hotel from NRT Airport
Part 3: Andaz Hotel Tokyo
Part 4: Tokyo Itinerary
Part 5: How to get from Tokyo to Kyoto
Part 6: Hyatt Regency – Kyoto
Part 7: Kyoto Itinerary
Part 8: Shinkansen Kyoto to Tokyo
Part 9: Conrad – Tokyo Part 1
Part 10: Conrad – Tokyo Part 2
Part 11: Singapore Business Class Tokyo to Singapore
Part 12: Conrad – Singapore
Part 13: Silk Air Business Class Singapore to Danang
Part 14: Intercontinental Danang Part 1
Part 15: Intercontinental Danang Part 2
Part 16: Turkish Business Class Hanoi to Istanbul
Part 17: Turkish Business Class Istanbul to Rome
Part 18: United First Class Rome to Chicago
We spent a couple days in Kyoto at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. After checking in and getting settled, we looked up a ramen shop and headed to Gion. The ramen shop ended up being much more touristy than expected. I guess that’s what we got for relying on TripAdvisor.
After the ramen, though pretty good but definitely not no.1 in the world as advertised, we took the train down to Fushimi Inari, which conveniently enough, has its own subway stop. We took a couple customary photos at the entrance, bought a miniature gate to wish for good luck on the honeymoon, and hung it with the hundreds of others from those who came before us.
It took us about three hours to hike up and back down the mountain, much longer than we anticipated. I would suggest budgeting 4-5 hours to go at a relaxed pace. The views during the hike up were much better than the view from the top, in fact the top was rather anti-climactic. There was no sign up at the top so we didn’t know until someone told us.
The shrine was beautiful at night, as hardly any tourists were there. We took the train home afterward, and QL got in some micro naps while we waited at the station.
The next morning, we wanted to get out early to see some sights and decided to get breakfast on the way to the train. Originally, we planned to try out the Amazon Café a block from the hotel; unfortunately, we were turned off by the fact people could smoke inside. Thankfully, someone lit up and we noticed that prior to sitting down, so we decided to walk across the street to get McDonald’s instead.
We then walked to Kyoto Station to purchase JR tickets to see the bamboo forest in Arashiyama. The bamboo forest/path area was about a 10 minute walk from the train station, and ended up being a quaint park area with small roads winding around the neighborhood and small developed tourist area there. We used Google Maps to get us to the Arashiyama (not the name of the actual stop) train stop, but once we got there, we relied on the signs to get us to the bamboo path. Google Maps was showing us Arashiyama was still quite a distance from where we ended up going, so I think there is a temple or some other landmark that is a little up the mountain. Pay attention to the signs or else you may end up hiking to the actual landmark on Google Maps.
After an hour or so of exploring, we caught a bus to Kinkaku-Ji. The buses in Kyoto aren’t too difficult to figure out. You simply board from the back and pay when you get off. There are two machines – one where you pay your fare, and one where you can get change for larger bills and coins. We found that the stops clearly indicated which buses stopped at the particular stop, and most if not all the stops had electronic signs showing the expected arrival of the next bus.
Using Google Maps, we navigated the city bus system. One thing we learned after the fact is you can buy a 24 hour pass for ¥900, which is a good deal and we highly recommend doing so. The bus stations and train stations sell them, so inquire at an information desk and save yourself a bunch of Yen over a couple days in Kyoto.
The ride to Kinkaku-Ji was about 40 minutes, with a transfer. Before we entered however, we made a pit stop to use the restroom and try some green tea ice cream.
I’ve never understood the fascination with green tea flavoring. The ice cream turned out to be ok, but I prefer neapolitan ice cream from back home.
We then paid the ¥400 per person entrance fee and strolled around. The place was very touristy, and people were jostling for position to take a perfect picture like this.
The temple and the grounds were beautiful. We spent about 45 minutes here, and then boarded another bus to catch a late lunch at Kaiyuutei restaurant I had looked up on tablelog before coming to Japan.
There was an option between teppanyaki (ground level) or a traditional Japanese restaurant (upstairs). We went with the latter and had to remove our shoes before going upstairs.
We got there about 45 minutes before the restaurant closed between lunch and dinner, and we were the only ones in the restaurant. After browsing the menu for a while we decided to try a couple of set courses. Together, they ended up costing around ¥10,000. The food was pretty tasteless, and honestly an izakaya with some simple food and beer would have been much better.
After lunch, we decided to walk back to the hotel. We walked around part of Gion and accidentally wandered into Higashiyama district, which ended up being the best part of our short trip in Kyoto.The streets and buildings were very nice, and even though it got crowded at times, it never felt overwhelming like it does in China. It was almost like being transported back in time seeing many women dressed in kimonos.
The first photo of this post was taken from the top of the Kiyomizu temple. Since the temple is built on top of a cliff, it provides many gorgeous views of the city, especially around sunset.
After a short break at the hotel, we went out for dinner. We wanted to try a teppanyaki place but it was closed for Golden Week. We wandered aimlessly for more than 30 minutes before stepping randomly into a very local sushi restaurant. We were hungry and sat down at the counter, realizing halfway through the meal that customers were allowed to smoke indoors. At that point we were stuck, but thankfully the vent fan from the kitchen was so strong, it carried most of the smoke away from us.
QL ordered the grilled octopus and tempura. I also had tempura and the chef’s selection of sushi. The fish was very fresh and ended up being the only sushi I ate during the trip since QL doesn’t like raw fish. I also had some sake.
It ended up being a very good meal and we were glad we stumbled upon it. It left us wondering what else we could stumble upon if we had more days in Kyoto to explore. I tried to look up the name of the restaurant to add it to this post, but it’s so local, it doesn’t show up on Google Maps. All in, dinner cost about $55.
On our last morning in Kyoto, we had a couple hours after breakfast before our Shinkansen back to Tokyo. We decided to board a bus and head to the Philosopher’s Walk. Conveniently, the bus we needed stopped directly outside of our hotel. The walk was indeed quite peaceful, and it left us wondering how much nicer it would have looked when cherry blossoms were fully in bloom a few weeks prior to our arrival.
We walked north toward Ginkaku-ji, and with some time to spare, we paid the ¥500 per person entry fee and looked around. The grounds were beautifully landscaped, but the building wasn’t quite as nice as Kinkaku-ji.
We spent about half an hour here before catching the bus back to check out of our hotel and head back to Tokyo. Back at the Hyatt, the checkout process was very quick, and there was a taxi queue outside, so it took seconds for us to get a cab. We learned in Tokyo to tell the driver to take us to the Shinkansen entrance, which he understood, and the ride cost a little more than ¥1,000.
There was a lot to see and if we could do it all over again, we would have hired an English speaking guide for one of the days, or looked for audio guides to better prepare for the sites.
Let us know if you have any questions about spending a couple days in Kyoto and we’re happy to share more!