To Kyoto, Or Not To Kyoto
Oh Kyoto, I have only known you for little more than 24 hours and already I know you will be one of my favourite cities.
Note: no additional qualifiers apply to that statement.
To the Snow Riders thinking of adding on a side trip to Japan: I can’t recommend Kyoto highly enough. It is a city that echoes the past but offers all modern day fun. If you’re looking to get a sense of the real Japan then you need to acquaint yourself with Kyoto. I’m not knocking Tokyo, but the general consensus is that Tokyo has morphed into a 'beast' of it's own kind; the best way I can explain it is that Tokyo is Vegas, and Kyoto is the heartland.
So if you’re looking for technicolor flashing lights, extreme anime, robot filled restaurants, or barbie cafes then I suggest you head to Tokyo. If you’re looking for a broader mix of old and new, then jump on a train, plane or bus bound for Kyoto.
Having just spent a week in Hakuba, it was a very easy five our journey south via Nagoya. (So if you're interested in Nagoya, you might want to plan to fit it in before continuing on to Kyoto).
I Heart Kyoto
Given the reputation of Tokyo, you might ask yourself why should you head to Kyoto, if you had to choose? To this I would offer the following limited list of reasons:
Kyoto feels like the epicentre of Japanese culture, and to a certain extent it very well is. The city used be home to the Emperor of Japan (before he moved to Tokyo) and has UNESCO World Heritage Site that extends to seventeen locations;
There are over 2,000 shrines and temples stashed away in the various nooks and crannies of the city waiting to be discovered. And while I wouldn’t suggest you visit every single one, there are a few select spots that are definitely worth checking out. These temples and shrines are stunning and inspiring, so much so that in World War II, Kyoto had the prestigious honour of sitting at the top of the proposed target list for the atomic bomb. Supposedly the reason Kyoto was spared was that the then US Secretary of War intervened as he had honeymooned in Kyoto and fondly remembered its beauty and wanted to preserve Japan's cultural hub;
Geishas. Yes, real fucking geishas, ‘nough said;
Food more than holds its own when stacked up against the rest of the country;
The shopping is crazy good;
The city has a relatively small population of approximately 1.5m people, which can be a big draw for some people who get overwhelmed by Tokyo (which is populated by roughly 13.5m people); and
There is fun to be found after the sun goes down, so you don't have to worry about the city being all zen meditations and scenic surroundings.
Work That Welcome Mat
If you do indeed decide to go to Kyoto, you will find the city extremely friendly to the wayward traveller and enthusiastic tourist. The locals that we met all went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and wanted, and more than anything they were eager to ensure we left loving their city.
**Obviously, it worked on me**
When you're in Kyoto you will notice that at almost all train stations, bus stops and Seven-Elevens there will be free Wifi, which is a huge deal if you haven't rented a Japanese sim or portable wifi. This made navigating public transport stress free, and riding around on a bike cruisy (as it should be).
So go, go to Kyoto. Embrace your inner tourist and rent a kimono for a few hours and pound the pavement . Feel secure in being sincerely welcomed every time you walk into a restaurant whether they have an english menu or not (I mean, you way still be turned away if tables are booked out, but it won’t because you’re a gaijin). Run amok around the city and notice that your wallet will still seem happy with you at end of every day…well, at least my wallet seemed happier in Kyoto because my cash didn’t feel like it kept disappearing into thin air!
Hopefully this post will help you decide whether you want 'to Kyoto, or not to Kyoto'.
For the my friends and I it was a natural decision. We decided to head to Osaka after Hakuba, and Kyoto was conveniently located on the way.
If you’re travelling on from Kyoto to Osaka by Shinkansen, it is less than half an hour away.
If you’re not in a rush, I would overbearingly recommend travelling from Kyoto to Osaka by way of Nara. It’s just over an hour on the JR trains from Kyoto, and another hour from Nara to Namba Station in Osaka. There isn’t much in Nara (from what I could tell), but what they do have is amazing… which I will tell you all about soon! So check back soon for more insights in travelling around Japan and their snow resorts!
If you’ve ever been to Kyoto, I’d love to hear what you liked most in the comments.
P.S. Check out our hashtag on Instagram to see all the latest photos posted by All Mountain Pass, Katie and Chris! #threeidiotstravel