My first trip to Japan started out like a dream. Perhaps it is the amazing design work, the gorgeous kimonos, or the birthplace of sushi – but I have always wanted to visit. For that reason, it was a surreal experience to find myself on a plane headed to Kyoto, knowing that I would have the opportunity to explore, eat, and photograph to my heart’s content.
The first full day of the 9-day trip began in the beautiful Western district of Kyoto, Arashiyama. Stepping off the train, visitors are welcomed with rows of pattern-filled pillars decorating the entire entrance-way. How very perfect. How very Japan.
The Arashiyama district is the quintessential mix of scenic beauty, historic architecture, hillside temples, charming shops, tasty street food, and even a few geishas. What more could I ask for?
Moving deeper into the district, we discovered a neighborhood of traditional buildings preserved in the style of the Meiji Period.
The Saga-Toriimoto Street leads directly to the Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple – a temple covered by hundreds of stone statues representing the souls of the dead.
Breathtaking is an understatement.
After enjoying a stroll through some of the lovely temples, we walked through the majestic bamboo groves.
The groves were particularly magical when the wind pushed through the tall stalks and gently swayed them back and forth. With each creek and crack against the winds push, it felt as if we were transported back to another time and place.
One of the highlights of the day in terms of design, was stumbling upon a wonderful little store that sells handmade paper products.
The owner brought care and craftsmanship to every detail, even the packaging of the little gifts and trinkets we bought for friends and family back home.
As the day came to a close and we headed back to the Village Kyoto Hotel, I was filled with excitement about what the rest of the journey might hold. If this was day one, I couldn’t wait to see what was next!
Getting to Kyoto:
We met at the Doha Airport for a 1:45am flight to Osaka. Once all 30 of us disembarked from the plane and went through customs, we took a train from Osaka to Kyoto. The JR Limited Express “Haruka” took us 70 minutes to arrive in Kyoto.
Tickets were purchased from Kansai JR ticket counter. We used the 3000 Yen Icoca and Haruka package, which includes a 2000 Ye prepaid card (1500 usable, 500 deposit refundable in Kyoto Station JR counter) for transportation in Kyoto.
A friendly note to the Doha traveler: UAE Exchange is the worst place to get your money exchanged from Riyal to Yen. I learned the hard way and am still fuming over it. Make sure you ask the rate and compare around town before you commit.