Kyoto was one destination that I had always wanted to go to and had never made it. I had visited Tokyo a few years before, but hadn’t made it across the country because of limited time and budget. Thankfully, I could finally afford the bullet train, and Daniel, his brother, Eric, and I hopped on and made it to Kyoto in two hours.
We had booked a capsule hotel with a spa for a more-than-affordable price. We each paid only $14 for our private bed and access to the hot baths. I personally love capsule hotels (and end up sleeping well at them), so this was a huge treat after running around Tokyo for days. After checking in, we ran to the nearest shrine. Kyoko ended up being much bigger than I thought, so it was nice to have a well-functioning subway system available.
Our first stop was the Kamigamo Shrine, where other tourists crowded the entrance. I was astounded by how everything was so well preserved—Kyoto was one of the few spots in Japan that had been saved from bombing during World War II, and was once the capital of feudal Japan. Along the way were statues of samurais, newly-married couples posing for wedding photos, and quiet shrines where we meditated for a moment or two.
Each area led to another, and we spent the day wandering through graveyards with family names and climbing hills to other secret gems. Tired, we walked back to our hotel where we slipped into some yukata robes and went down to the spa. Daniel and Eric went to the men’s, and I wandered into the women’s—as the only one wearing a swimsuit.
The next day, we knew we would have to book it in order to see everything that Kyoto had to offer before we rushed back to Tokyo. Getting up early, we had our breakfast and headed toward the area where we could see a preserve where snow monkeys were allowed to wander free and the famous Golden Pagoda and bamboo forest.
Daniel usually has a lot of fun on our travels, but I have never seen him so happy as he was feeding the endangered snow monkeys. The preserve is dedicated to trying to restoring the monkeys to their natural habitats and for educating the public. Snow monkeys live at the highest latitude of any other monkey species and have a thick coat to deal with snow in the mountains near Kyoto. They were adorable—and it was hilarious to see how happy Daniel was.
Next, we checked out the bamboo forest. I had seen pictures overtaking Instagram of this spot, and it was high on my list of what I wanted to see (along with the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, which we explored in the dead of night). We wandered through the bamboo, trying to find the right lighting for our pictures.
Finally, we headed to the Golden Pagoda. By far the most-crowded tourist attraction, we wove in and out of the crowds in order to see what once was a palace sitting in the middle of a small lake. It shimmered in the sun, reminding us that it was covered entirely in gold leaf. It was hard to believe that it could be preserved so well.
It was time to head back to Tokyo in order to catch a show at the Robot Restaurant. Even still, I was sad to say goodbye to Kyoto, knowing we had missed so much. I made sure to put it on my list of spots to return to some day when I have the chance.
Have you made it to Kyoto? Is it on your list?