Sunday Spotlight – Kyoto
Some places you go, you just enter and BANG! You are in love. When people go to Japan, I think it’s no big deal to skip Tokyo, or not to worry too much about Osaka, but you simply have to go to the place that won my heart in less than one of its beats – Kyoto.
It has a fair reputation for awesomeness, and one that is pretty well deserved in my book. But it’s not just the temples, the tower and the feel of the place, there’s a real soul to Kyoto. It’s funny. When it’s the first place you go when you visit a country, somehow that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the country. I spent the rest of my time in April 2011 trying to recapture the feeling of being in Kyoto, and in my two years living in Japan I hoped I’d get a chance to find another ‘Kyoto’, but the bar had been set so high it was an unfair expectation. I had started at the best, and wouldn’t experience it again. Even if I was to return to Kyoto, I suspect it wouldn’t quite be the same.
The city itself is pretty gosh darned awesome for the traveller. There’s Kinkanku-ji, the golden temple in some divine gardens, where school girls ran up to me, took my photo and ran away giggling. There’s the Geisha District, I saw a special performance (in a theatre) and learned about their lives on a two-hour free tour. I took the lift to the top of Kyoto tower and could see the city and the mountains surrounding it, I visited a number of other temples too, marvelled at electronics galore, and I visited a museum devoted to Manga, where on certain days (mostly Sunday) the youngsters dressed as anime characters and posed for photos.
On top of that, if you go in April you will discover the best place in Japan to enjoy the cherry blossoms. People meet in the parks to enjoy them as the cherry blossoms line the streets, parks and canals that run through Kyoto. It’s really superb. There’s a certain something in the air, as people dress as Geishas and stroll the city to Kinkanku-ji and other places, like the magical bamboo forest which is also worth a visit. It’s the awesome-est!
Not only that, Kyoto is the perfect base to do day trips to the ancient capital Nara, and Osaka from. Then there’s Takarazuka as well, where there’s a museum to Osamu Tezuka, the father of anime some say, and the creator of Astroboy.
For food and entertainment you won’t be disappointed either. There are so many great little noodle shops you can go to for ramen, but of course there are hundreds of restaurants with every type of Japanese dish imaginable, and plenty of European restaurants too. Then there are countless clubs, bars and the like. I went to a karaoke bar which was extremely entertaining. Actually – I was rather entertaining myself! And then there are plenty of bars to dance through the entire evening up until breakfast as well.
And finally, the thing that made Kyoto super-awesome for me was K’s House. This is simply one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. Friendly staff, free tours, a wonderful bar next door, spotless, great common areas, I simply loved this hostel. Totally and utterly brilliant. What more do you need? Not much I’d say!
So if you’re headed to Japan, under NO circumstances miss Kyoto. Really, the place will not let you down. It’s kinda magical, and definitely unforgettable. One of the best cities on Earth!
PS. There’s a pretty cool train museum there too!