The old capital of Japan has everything an imperial city prides itself – old Buddhist temples, gorgeous gardens, imperial palaces and Shinto shrines. But above all, Kyoto is most famous for its cherry blossom. In Gion, the entertainment district I drifted under a roof of cherry blossom, dined in traditional restaurants, got tipsy on sake and caught a glimpse of a geisha.
Fushimi-Inari Shrine is one of Japan’s most famous shrines and a must-see. Founded in AD 711 it is dedicated to the goddess of rice-growing, Inari. It is busy with tourists, merchants and tradesmen who come to pray here for prosperity. Of course, there is the temple, but wandering through 32.000 bright orange “torii,” or arches is something absolutely, unparalleled on this entire planet.
I admit it did not make to the top, since it was getting dark. The 4km trail meanders up to 233 meters above sea level. This does not seem a lot, but with all the shrines along the way it becomes a two hour walk up. Not only the path up, the entire complex is plastered with small shrines. Most unusual I found the many sculptures of foxes, the messengers of the gods. A great time to explore the shrine is at night; it is wonderfully lit and without the crowds. Something I unfortunately did not manage to do. I only saw breathtaking photos of it. Who paid for putting up 32,000 toris? Each of the arches at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business
Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion
The golden pavilion reflecting in the pond is pure magic. The place is packed with Japanese tourists yielding mobile phone on sticks. The original was set on fire by a monk of the very temple. Five years later, in 1955 this beauty was restored and unveiled.
Gion – entertainment and geisha district
Gion district gives you a unique glimpse of Old Japan, well-preserved 17th-century restaurants and teahouses, and quite a lot of young women are dressed in traditional clothes. They smile from the inside of small carriages drawn by young men. Who would want to walk in those plateau shoes.
The best time to visit is in the evening. My personal highlight was wandering along the promenade of the small Shirakawa River under a roof of cherry blossoms with the stars peeking through. Of course you are not alone, but it is a quiet and peaceful place since traffic is banned from the area. It is great for people watching, everybody is posing for photos. I even spotted a group of Japanese men enjoying kaiseki dining, consisting of multiple courses of precise dishes, and geisha company,