Travel from Osaka to Kyoto is the easiest thing in the world. There are a lot of trains, and the ticket does not cost much. From Umeda station, you can go on a kind of regional train, which takes about half an hour. Trains pass quite often, so just stand at the famous markings on the ground that indicate where to queue, and wait.
With the station so close to our hotel, in just 10 minutes we were already waiting for the train. We also took the opportunity to see how the system worked, and once it is understood it is quite easy. On the ground are the marks corresponding to each wagon, the wagons for women only or with family preference are also indicated.
Our train arrived punctually, as the Japanese are, and hopefully, we got a place to sit. Seats are not reserved on this train and if it’s crowded, you have to travel standing up.
Leaving Osaka you can remark how the number of floors of the buildings reduces, and buildings bacame smaller. Houses that clump against each other. Actually, you do not feel like leaving a city for enter into another one, it feels more like moving from one part of the city to another a little less modern.
Our first impressions of Kyoto
So we get to Kyoto station, we descend, and there is an incredible frenzy of people. We get the impression that there are many more people here than in Osaka. We initially look for the exit, and immediately where to go to retrieve our JR Pass. Thus taking advantage of the fact that we were already at the station, and thus we would have them in time. We go into an office where train tickets are sold, and there they have a line dedicated to passes. It was all very simple and fast, you only have to complete a form that the agent gives and they give you the pass. Done !!
I think it was more difficult to find the exit of the hotel to take a taxi than the pass. In the end, as we did not know much about how to go to the hotel, we took a taxi. It didn’t cost much, we paid the equivalent of about € 10. Later we learned that we could have taken the subway because there was one very close to the hotel, but we were not very clear about this when we arrived.
In about fifteen minutes we arrived at the hotel, for our first part in Kyoto we stayed at the Hotel Nishitetsu Solaria Kyoto Premier . Near the river, in an area known as Sanjo, and also near the train station of the same name. It is a little further north of the city and it seemed practical for us to move towards Arashiyama, which was our first objective to visit.
We had read that visiting Arashiyama took a whole day, so we would do it the next day, the same day we arrived we went for a walk to explore the area, and we had a half intention to visit the imperial palace, but we only managed to see it from the outside and visit the gardens. It was Monday, and take note, on Mondays, the imperial palace is closed to the public. After walking a lot, we were super exhausted, we decided to go back to the hotel and see what we could eat.
The surroundings of Nishitetsu Solaria are quite beautiful, the street borders a stream, the Misosogi River, which is quite choreographic and gives a beautiful atmosphere to the place. Also, very close on foot, you can reach the Teramachi Galleries. Lots of shops are located in an endless covered corridor. We passed through here on our way back to the hotel, when we were coming from the Imperial Palace, we were not really looking for the place, and suddenly we found ourselves in this maze of roofed streets, which gave the impression of a shopping center with infinite corridors.
At the time of check-in, we asked for our luggage, which would arrive by post the next day, we had planned to have enough clothes for the first night, so we had no problem.
Visiting the northern of Kyoto: Arashiyama – The famous Kyoto Bamboo Forest
The next day we woke up early to go to Arashiyama, one of the most appreciated visits in Kyoto. It is an area to the northwest of the city, much less dense at an urban level, and much greener. The logical thing is to go there to visit the famous Bamboo Sagano Forest which is more a bamboo corridor, but the truth is there is a lot to see, it has magnificent temples, with picturesque streets, so a full day should be considered to visit this area, and for sure, it will be had I have to choose what to see because it is not possible to see everything.
How to get to Kyoto Bamboo Forest? Easy, You can take a bus, whose last stop is just Arashiyama, a little before the Kotokiki bridge. If you want to go to the Bamboo Sagano forest, from the stop there is still a more or less long walk, but not impossible. The truth is that the visit to this place should not have this forest as the only objective, since there is much more to see.
There are two ways to get to the Bamboo forest, but it seems to me that going through Kameyama Park is the best. To get to the entrance of the park, you have to skirt the Katsura river, walking along a beautiful and pleasant boulevard.
From the park you can see Kyoto, if the weather allows it, we were lucky and we had a wonderful day with a wonderful view. We reached the top and entered the Okochi Sanso gardens, where the Samurai-style house of an actor named Denjiro Okochi is located. The entrance includes green tea with a small typical Japanese sweet, which is why you pay a little more than usual tickets to the gardens and temples (where you pay, because there are many free entrances). There are some super beautiful gardens with very photogenic angles and each time you can admire Kyoto from different points of view.
The entrance of these gardens is near the beginning of the bamboo forest, if you want to visit Okochi Sanso , you must do it before visiting the bamboo forest that leads to the exit of the park.
After touring the gardens, you arrive at the equally photogenic tea house, nestled in the middle of a bamboo grove, giving it a charming shade. Sitting down was something that we appreciated a lot, and immediately a lady came who said something in Japanese that we did not understand and then tickets, we gave her the tea ticket, and she did the same with the table behind us and at almost supersonic speed, she appeared again with a tray with various teas, including ours.
The tea was accompanied by a small sweet (ultra sweet) wrapped in a beautiful paper, so Japanese. The tea, ah! the tea, it’s what they call Macha green tea, nothing to do with the green tea bags that I usually drink; It is a thicker drink, with a super intense flavor. At that moment, we understood why the candy was so sweet. It is what allows you to pass the tea that is not sweetened at all. Personally, I didn’t like it because it was very strong, but this tea has its followers.
After a break in this super relaxing tea house, we headed towards the bamboo forest. We had already seen a similar one in the Bambouserai de Anduze (which has nothing to envy). So we were not surprised. Only the passage of people in traditional costumes made us a spectacle painting, and it is what reminds us that we are in traditional Kyoto. An incredible amount of people congregate in this corridor and it is not easy to take a photo where you are not with hundreds behind and to the side, but with cunning and speed we do it.
The forest is very beautiful, but we were much more captivated by the path that followed, skirting temples and other gardens, until we reached the small Nonomiya-Jinja Shrine, packed with Chinese shouting in all directions. We get away from the hustle and bustle to better admire the place and take some photos in a small garden that surrounds it.
We continued our tour, trying not to follow the mass, and we discovered the entrance of some temples and palaces less crowded. You must pay about 500Y for each entry ticket, we decided to keep walking, and continue discovering what there was. We continued walking and came out onto a very pretty street, super busy, full of very nice businesses. Going down this street you would get to the bus stop again, but we didn’t intend to leave yet.
We went down the street, and we decided to take another break, buying a green tea and cherry ice cream in a very nice place, where you can sit and admire the people passing by. Great to see the girls in traditional dress go up in groups. After the ice cream, we continue and on the right, we enter an area of temples: Nahui-in, Sanshu-in et Jinsa-in , until we reach Tenryuji which is the only one that asks to pay a ticket, at 500Y if it is only the temple, and 800Y with the gardens.
We visited all the others, and since we had already done kilometers on foot, it was enough and more than enough. You always have to choose, and also being our first day of traditional visit, we did not want to be overwhelmed and in Kyoto we must dose the visit of temples, because otherwise you never end.
We kept walking, entering through streets and alleys, not having a particular fixed goal, we love that, because that is how we discover things, and we feel the freedom to advance as we want and how we feel. So we arrived at a small zen garden, very beautiful
Next door there was a beautiful restaurant, we were looking for where to have tea and a dessert, but there they only served full meals, so we continued on our way. We stopped to buy lemonade for the first time at one of the many beverage vending machines. As we continued we came across the entrance of a beautiful hotel, which indicated a restaurant and a tea room.
We told ourselves it would be a good place to pause and have our dessert. It was totally away from the bustle of tourists, in a green area, on the edge of the river and with traditional buildings, very beautiful. The place is called Cafe Hassui and it is part of the Suiran Luxury Collection Hotel, a very beautiful luxury hotel by the river. Certainly, expensive accommodation but it is located in a very calm and green area, but far from the center of Kyoto.
We chose a couple of desserts from 4 or 5 proposed. Accompanied by a coffee. I ate something with green tea, and inside it had a filling that I could never decipher in flavor, something between coffee and caramel, but it was not particularly sweet. My husband ate a kind of reinvented fruit salad because all the pieces of fruit were like cubes of fruit jelly, including one of something that we had not tried until that moment and I must confess that its taste enchanted me, the Yuzu.
After this extremely pleasant and relaxing break, away from the noise, we again immersed ourselves among the tourists, returning towards the bridge where we started our day, we crossed it to explore what was on the other side. We saw that this is the entrance of a park called the Monkey Parc, you have to climb a lot until you reach a flat area at the top of the hill, where monkeys are found in freedom. The truth is to go up at that time we were not very clear about it, we were tired of the kilometers traveled during the day, and we were not very interested in having monkeys in freedom around. So we continued walking a bit on the edge of the river, admiring the view from that other side. Until we gave no more, and we decided to go to the bus stop to return to the hotel.
Tasting new meals
After a well-deserved shower and getting well-groomed, we went to one of our favorite activities on this trip: looking for a place to eat. The day before we had already seen a place that was close to the hotel, and in which we could not eat because there was no place, and we understood that we had to reserve. As best we could, we made a reservation before we went for a walk in search of cash. They told us that the place was full, but that we could eat before 8:00 p.m. without a problem. We took a walk before, and finally, back we settled in the bar of the tiny restaurant.
We liked the concept a lot, they have a large amount of cut vegetables, placed in containers throughout the bar, you choose the vegetable you want and they cook it for you at the moment with some companion. There is a one-time price per vegetable plate, and then a few other dishes on the menu, such as rice, Japanese omelet, and salad. The truth is, I didn’t know half of the vegetables displayed above the bar, but that was one of the most interesting things about the place, trying new things.
The restaurant is called Isoya and is part of a small group of restaurants that works with products from local farmers.
After that fabulous meal, let’s walk for a while through the beautiful streets along the stream. We went to the Seven-Eleven to buy some umbrellas in anticipation of the bad weather that would arrive the next day. I was obsessed with buying one of those transparent umbrellas. And the truth is that great.
The next morning, as expected, it was raining quite a bit. We took our umbrella, along with one that the hotel lent us, and we walked to a Boulangerie (on the ground floor of the Royal Park Kyoto Hotel) where we had eaten a little before going to Arashiyama, this day we decided to have a real breakfast, like the ones we had seen the day before, but we didn’t drink because we didn’t want to take too long. The truth is that it was fabulous, of excellent quality, and at a more than reasonable price.
After our comforting meal, back to the hotel to find our briefcase and head to the train station. We say goodbye to Kyoto momentarily and go to Kanazawa. We had planned to take the 1pm train, but given the bad weather, we decided to leave earlier.