After my very short day in Osaka, it was time for me to head out to Kyoto. I was SO excited to go to Kyoto, as I’ve heard many wonderful things about it.
First, I had to get there. I originally planned on taking the cheap train there, but Google Maps led me to the more expensive JR train. Not wanting to search for the other train, I bought a ticket and headed out. To my surprise, the train from Osaka only took about 20 minutes or so. It was very fast and I arrived at my hostel around 9 am.
What a treat! I still had the whole day to explore.
From the first moment I got out onto the streets, I liked Kyoto. It was exactly what you might imagine Japan to look like with cool hole-in-the-wall restaurants and traditional looking buildings. Magical.
After dropping my bags off at the most adorable hostel ever, I decided to walk around the neighborhood. Little did I know that there were several temples and shrines right next to me! Of course, I’d soon discover that in Japan, you are never too far from multiple temples and shrines. They are everywhere!
I then decided to head to Kyoto Imperial Palace. It should be known that the streets around the area were adorable.
I finally arrived at the palace not knowing if they’d let me in, as I read somewhere that you had to have a reservation. However, they let me in with no problem and I found out later that this reservation applied to another palace.
The palace was beautiful. I especially liked the gardens. I also felt very much like a solo traveler because I was surrounded by lots of tour groups.
After touring the palace, I was pretty hungry and sweaty so I decided to find someplace cool to eat.
I ended up in a random restaurant where I saw many people sitting. It was Sunday afternoon and the place was buzzing. Turns out the place was an Udon noodle restaurant. The waiter was incredibly helpful in helping me choose a meal.
I literally just pointed to something off the English menu and he gave me what noodles he thought I’d like.
The food was yummy and I LOVED that they gave me tea with my meal. This would be a common occurrence in Japan. They love their tea!
I then decided to walk around the palace area a bit more because Google Maps told me there was a temple/shrine nearby. However, it wasn’t much of anything and because it was so far from everything, I ended up walking SO much more than I planned.
I then decided to change up my plans and go to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which is the famous “Temple on a Hill.”
The small roads leading up to it were peaceful!
And then . . . I ran into the tourists.
There were a ridiculous amount of tourists in this area. At least, maybe it only felt like it because I was sweaty, tired from walking, and in need of a refreshment because of the heat.
I even debated as to whether or not I should go into the famous temple because there were people everywhere. In the end, I’m glad I did. The temple was enormous.
One thing that amazed me about this temple (and all temples, really) was how it felt very much like a market. Every temple I went to had a store to sell many items. It seemed to me like they were profiting from tourists by selling lucky charms and fortunes. It reminded me of that story in the Bible where Jesus throws down the tables at the temple because he does not want his Father’s house to be a place of trade.
Walking through this temple brought this story to life for me. Something about it felt very strange. Like, for only $5, I could improve my love life. I know some people just do it in good fun, but I’m sure a lot of people really believe in this.
Anyways, I did manage to get away from the tourists for a little bit.
After the temple, I didn’t really know where to go because I had already accomplished just about everything I wanted to accomplish that day. I was also already tired out from temples. There were literally temples and shrines at every passing turn. I’ve never seen so many historical sights in one area.
Regardless, I walked around some more and bought a delicious green tea float.
My wandering led me to yet another temple. I didn’t care about going inside it, but at the last minute decided to say “yes.” I ended up getting in just in time, as it was about to close right before I arrived!
Because of my impeccable timing, the grounds were quiet and I was able to view the sunset from a beautiful hill.
Tired from the long day and a ridiculous amount of walking, I decided to head back to the hostel and find a place to eat in the area. One of the workers recommended a ramen place nearby that was super cool! You order from a machine and then hand the ticket to the staff. Of course, I had no idea that every ramen place is the same.
I was about to go to sleep after this, but when I realized it was only around 8 o’clock, I figured I should walk around some more and see what there was to do. I headed to nearby Kyoto Station and walked into a mall type thing. It was enormous and I was dazzled by their kids section, which had a ton of games to play and things to buy.
The store was closing down when I arrived though, and I took it as a sign that I should go back to my hostel.
All in all, my first day in Kyoto was a success! It was a lot hotter and I did a lot more walking than I thought I’d do, but it was a success nonetheless.