1. Temples and architecture:
Let’s start with the obvious: The first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Kyoto is probably “temples” – lots of temples actually. With about 1600 buddhist temples and 400 shinto shrines there is a good chance that this might be enough for your whole vacation. So if you visit Japan to see temples you have come to the right place. In the temples it is often possible to attend a tea ceremony so don’t miss this opportunity if you like green tea.
The most impressive (but also most crowded) temples are in the Higashiyama district. If you don’t mind all the other people this will be a good place to find the best temples in Kyoto.
The landscape in places like the Higashiyama district is so spectacular that it’s nearly unreal. I was lucky enough to visit this area on a perfect, sunny day and it looked like straight from a fairytale. Arashiyama is famous for the bamboo forest and besides Higashiyama this will be a place you don’t want to miss either. The two days I spent in the Higashiyama district were the most memorable ones of my trip to Japan and that says a lot.
3. Shopping and Downtown:
Besides the traditional temples and the beutiful landscape Kyoto offers a nice shopping district where you can find lots of cute things and interesting food. In the main street Kawaramachi there is nearly nothing you can’t find and if you want proof that Japanese people react a little sensitive to alcohol you can see some of it here when it’s getting later in the evening ;).
I stayed in a Ryokan during my time in Kyoto and they offered Sake tasting on one evening. Sake has an interesting history and production process with a great variety of taste, so if you have a chance to taste some don’t miss the opportunity.
The people of Kyoto (and Japan in general) were the real highlight of my travel to Japan. They are very friendly and polite and didn’t have a single negative experience. Japanese also like to take photos so I came to right place. As you can see on the following pictures some Japanese guys are quite interested in Gaijin photos ;). Before visiting Japan I was not into Street Photography that much but that changed on this trip and now I like to take pictures in the street wherever I travel.
Let’s face it: Every picture looks better with a cat in it, this is fact. Yes, Tokyo has more cat cafés (and some of them are great) but chances to see street cats are way bigger in Kyoto and the combination of the beautiful landscapes with cats makes the perfect picture to win the Pulitzer Price. Well, maybe not quite, but still you can make great pictures of cats in Kyoto :).
There are several other reasons why you should visit Kyoto like the great food or culture but hey, I wanted this to be a top 5 list ;). BUT: Visit a Geisha Dance if you have the chance and if you are lucky you will be able to catch one (or two) of the gifts the Geisha / Maiko throw to the crowd. Even if you don’t understand a word this will be quite an experience you will remember.
This article has also been posted on www.zoomingjapan.com