A dream day in Kyoto would typically start off with a Japanese style breakfast. As a westerner it took me, a bread-loving Belgian, a while to get used to the idea of eating soup and fish in the morning, but now I have come to like it very much. A Japanese breakfast consists of a bowl of rice, a piece of salmon, vegetables and pickles.
Now you are ready to explore the Kinkakuji Temple
oh-so-many sites in Kyoto! Let’s start with Kinkakuji, the ‘Golden temple’, a world heritage site visited by thousands of people everyday. As you enter the compound and stroll through the garden, the only things visible are rows upon rows of hedges. Then, as you turn a corner, there it is! A sparkling golden temple floating gracefully in the middle of the lake, in all its splendor and glory. It is quite a sight, and very beautiful; and depending on the season in which you visit, there are either cherry blossom trees or the different colors of autumnal leaves. The grounds are quite large, and you can easily spend an hour or so exploring the garden, taking postcard pictures, or simply relaxing and getting away from the rush of downtown Kyoto.
Perhaps there is some time left and you still have some stamina. We could go to the ‘Silver Pavilion’, another world heritage site which has been recently reconstructed. It differs slightly from its ‘golden brother’, Kinkakuji, but it is just as beautiful and stunning. The Silver Pavilion has one of the finest gardens in Kyoto. Meticulously kept, it is an absolutely breath taking sight. Enjoy a stroll or take some beautiful photos while touring through these calming gardens.
By now you must be very hungry, and lunch might not sound like a bad idea. There are limitless possibilities, but let me suggest one of my favorite dishes, ‘Ramen’. Although it is Chinese from origin, ramen is a very popular dish here. Side dishes include Kim-chi (spicy cabbages pickles), and gyoza (dumplings with garlic, pork). The ramen itself comes in many varieties; Miso (soya been paste), Shio (salt), or vegetable, etc.
After a satisfying lunch, how about visiting the Nijo Castle grounds? After all this delicious food, a little exercise might be welcome to invigorate us. It’s easy to spend 2 to 3 hours here, walking through the architectural, calming gardens or observing the castle and other adjacent compounds. Shoot some pictures, enjoy the view, and try to imagine what it would have been like several hundred years back. – strong samurai warriors with their long swords, geisha girls, servants, cooks and workers.
As the evening is nearing, perhaps we have a little time for shopping and souvenir hunting. The arcade on Shijo Street is always bustling with activity, and the opportunities to find a bargain are endless. The streets are twisting and limitless, and as your legs begin to look for a nice bench, a thought suddenly comes to mind – isn’t Japan famous for it’s Onsens (hot spring resort)? After a delightful dip with massage and sauna, you start to feel again like a new person, albeit a little hungry. How about a local “Kaiseki” dish? Made up of a variety of several different dishes, a feast for the eye and stomach, it is the icing on the cake. Seated in typical Japanese restaurant with a view of a magnificent garden, this is Japan at its best.
If you have any energy left, perhaps there is some time to visit some of the local drinking places and taste some of Kyoto’s finest sakes and shochus (an alcoholic drink made of potato). They also have snacks and side dishes in case hunger strikes again.
And now, its time to go back to your “Ryokan” (Japanese style Inn) for a good nights rest!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyotodreamtrips/ visit my Flickr page for a full sampling of all Kyoto World heritage Pictures!