Fushimi Inari Shrine: This was number 1 on my list to see in Kyoto, after seeing so many photos of it on instagram! In fact, I was so excited we went the first day we got there. It is most noted for its hundreds of torii gates, in warm golden red hues. These cover a myriad of trails all over Mt. Inari. All of the shrines are dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and since foxes are believed to be the messenger of this god, there are plenty of fox statues all over the shrine grounds. The walkway leading up to the shrine grounds is loaded with street food stalls, the sights and smells will be overwhelming in the best way; you'll want to snack before or after you hike the trails anyway! I got some taiyaki from one of the stalls, a favorite treat of mine to eat in Japan that I can hardly ever find back home.
Kiyomizu-dera: There's handfuls of temples in Kyoto, it can be a little overwhelming to decide which ones to go to. We chose Kiyomizu-dera as it was easiest for us to get to! I loved the walk up the hill, it is lined with cute shops, restuarants, and souvenirs. The temple itself is stunning and vibrant.
Arayashima Bamboo Forest is a beautiful place of peace and tranquility. I have never felt so calm as I have there, hearing silence and nothing but the wind rustle through the bamboo stalks. Despite it being crowded at times, I feel like the bamboo has a sound blocking quality(lol) as it was always very peaceful there. I couldn't resist a matcha cone for 300 yen on the walk over!
Tenryuji Temple: Worth the entry price for the beautiful gardens and temples. This place is massive and you could easily spend hours here. Love the idyllic pond adding to even more tranquility. This place is in close proximity to Aryashima so make a day of it! Rachel and I really wanted to dine at the zen vegetarian restaurant(shojin ryori) Shigetsu, located inside the temple but we didn't make reservations prior. I would gladly return to Kyoto to visit this beautiful place and try the food.
Nishiki Market: Our hostel was right down the street from this place! Very convienient. Loved all the food stalls here. Many evenings were spent snacking and shopping, everything was very affordable. This seemed to be a prime spot for younger people to hangout, and we did meet a few other backpackers in this area. In the market you can buy anything from food(ingredients & ready made meals), clothing, and souvenirs. One of my all time favorite desserts purchased here was fresh warm melonpan (bread) with matcha ice cream. Still get teary eyed thiking of how I wish I could eat that every day.
Nara Park: One of the first pictures I ever saw that made me realize "Wow, I have to go to Japan!" was a picture my brother took at Nara Park while he did a student exchange trip there. Deer are one of my favorite animals and I was just amazed one, at how many there were, and two, how freely they roamed around! I thought it would be so magical to be there. My first trip to Japan I did not make it to Nara, but i did have deer encounters on Miyajima...another post on that to come! This trip, we barely squeezed it in while we were in Kyoto! It was the end of the day, the sun was due to set in about an hour; Rachel and I had already done Aryashima and Tenryuji, but did not want to return to the hostel yet. We decided to "race the sun" and try to get to Nara before dark. The train ride was about an hour, and I think we both passed out from all the walking(I don't know why, but Japan's trains always lul me to sleep. They're so comfortable!). The town in Nara was so cute and we seemed to run all the way from the train station to the park. The sun was starting to set and I was a little disappointed not to have seen any deer when we happened upon a lady with a "deer cookie" stall. We bought some in hopes of finding the deer as she was closing up shop. Not long after that did we run across some deer! Even in the dark I was spellbound by how nonchalant the deer were, very bold and brazen to get anything in your hands they deemed edible. One tried to eat the drawstring on my coat! I very much enjoyed the few hours I got to spend in Nara and it was definitely worth it for a last minute addition. I will definitely try and return on my next trip to Kyoto, as I feel like we just scratched the surface of what the park has to offer!