We have recently got back from a trip to Japan. Since moving to Hong Kong, Japan has always been high on my list of places to visit, and it finally happened! It took a little persuasion to get the fiancé to sacrifice a beach holiday, but he agreed and I think he would also admit it was a good decision. We initially flew to Tokyo and had two days exploring what the capital had to offer, everything from tourist attractions and monuments to restaurants and bars.
As we didn’t have much time, we’d like to have seen more, but did manage to tick off; Tokyo Tower, Shibuya Crossing and Golden Gai. Golden Gai, is something I would tell others they need to visit when in Tokyo, just for the unique experience, and a chance to get to know a variety of different people you may otherwise not have met. The concept of these ramshackle streets is just an array of different bars, with different themes, however all having one thing in common… their tiny size! All the bars around this area are so tiny, some only fitting as little as five people in. This epitomises Japan for me, with traditionally dressed bar tenders, a selection of sake (Japanese rice wine) and an intimate drinking experience.
After two days in Tokyo we got the bullet train to Kyoto, which was the place I was most excited to try. It did not disappoint! Anybody visiting Japan should definitely take the time to do a couple of days in Kyoto – it has such a great balance of both traditional and modern Japan, at times truly transporting you to a scene from ’Memoirs of a Geisha’. During our stay in Kyoto we stayed at Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier, which I would highly recommend for it’s location, quality and staff. The hotel was in the Shijo – Kawaramachi area, with access to a number of train stations, this area offers a great variety of restaurants, bars and shopping choices – ranging from market stalls and vintage clothes shops to high-end designers.
Food & Drink
Okay let’s talk bars and restaurants, if you are planning a trip to Kyoto and are wondering about food and bars I would recommend visiting Pontocho Dori Street, this is lined with an ample variety of restaurants, as well as many side alleys with small and interesting bars. Pontocho Dori Street is also situated along the river front, so in the summer months, the restaurants set up a wooden terrace over the river to allow you to enjoy the sun and river whilst eating and drinking.
One bar in particular I would suggest going, is one that was suggested to me before my trip (and rightfully so), it is Hello Dolly. This jazz bar has a lovely interior with a great vibe. As for food, I don’t think anybody visiting Kyoto should miss out on tasting Chao-Chao’s range of gyoza (dumplings). During our trip we actually visited this place twice, and that is coming from somebody who would never usually visit the same restaurant twice on holiday. This little slice of heaven is actually a super small, cheap, nothing fancy restaurant on Kiyamachi Dori Street, you will know you have found it by the line of people waiting outside. You cannot make reservations, so you have to put your name on a waiting list and wait for your name to be called, however, don’t worry you can buy beer whilst waiting…and it is definitely worth the wait!
Now you will likely have seen this sight on many Instagram pages, probably just not knowing the location was called Fushimi Inari Taisha; this is a very famous tourist spot in Kyoto, famous for the thousands of vermilion Torii gates. Being a tourist spot, I would definitely recommend getting there as early as possible, as you are part of the huge crowds all trying to get a good photo of themselves amongst the famous red gates.
Another must see is Nagano Bamboo Forest, this is a forest full of bamboo, with a small path to follow around a rather magical place. To get to the bamboo forest you can travel to Hankyu Arashiyama Station and walk to the forest, this allows you to pass both the Togetsu-kyo Bridge and the Tenryuji Temple on your walk over. Try to get to the forest as early as possible to avoid crowds, and the midday heat (if you are travelling in summer).
Now if you want to see streets that have that real traditional Japanese feel head to Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka Slopes, these are charming paved slopes that are decked with a variety of souvenir and tea shops. Taking a trip up and down both slopes was a real highlight to the trip, as it allowed you to wander around; seeing, drinking and tasting traditional Japan.
Whilst walking around you will also see Koshoji and Hokanji Temple, beautiful gardens, as well having an opportunity take a great snap with the tower of Yasaka Shrine in the background.
Overall, I would highly suggest anybody who is thinking of visiting Japan to visit Kyoto, it had everything on offer; heritage, sight-seeing, restaurants, bars and shops. I loved our trip and I know you will too, hopefully if you are reading this post and have previously been on the fence about visiting Kyoto, I hope I have swayed your decision. If you would like to see anymore pictures from my trip head over to my Instagram.
Thank you for reading and enjoy your next trip, wherever it may be.
Striped Pants: Who’s Who Kyoto (Japan)
Navy Printed Blouse: Who’s Who Kyoto (Japan)
Black Embroidered Dress: Next
Pleated Skirt: Uniqlo
White Shirt: Uniqlo
Black Tie Sandals: Mango
Red Bag: Zara
Black Bag: Forever21