Tourists who set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun for the first time are always torn between which city to see first. Should it be the bustling modern city of Tokyo with all its blinding neon lights, vibrant parties, and towering skyscrapers? Or should it be the traditional capital of Kyoto with its idyllic lifestyle and traditional temples and shrines? To cultural enthusiasts who love to learn about different cultures, traditions, and history, the answer is quite obvious. And even if you are not a big cultural buff, but you love spending your days in peace and quiet while admiring splendid views, then the quaint, idyllic city of Kyoto is the one for you.
If you’re like most travellers who prefer to have everything planned out for you so you can just focus on enjoying the journey, then try booking a Japan trip package. If you don’t like dealing with crowds, choose a tour package that will take you through the hidden gems of Kyoto. Don’t know which place to start? Here are our favourites!
After a long-haul trip, there is nothing more comforting than unwinding and soaking your sore muscles in the bath—and not with just any bath: an onsen!
Among the best places to truly experience the customs and traditions of Japan is in their bathhouses or Onsen. This outdoor bathing facility is filled with steaming hot spring water heated underground by the geothermic activity of the volcano sleeping beneath the land. The warm embrace of the water is nicely contrasted by the cool breeze outdoors.
Bathing in onsens is a centuries-old practice in Japan that originated in Kyoto. Experiencing it for yourself will allow you to appreciate the intangible aspects of Japanese culture—particularly their politeness and care for hygiene. Moreover, it is also an excellent way to relax your sore muscles from travelling such a long distance. While soaking in the onsen, you can just admire the surroundings, or you can have a little chat with some locals who are also unwinding in the bath. And yes, there will be other people with you in that bath! But don’t worry because most onsens are categorised by gender, although there are also mixed gender onsens that allow both men and women to bathe together.
When in Kyoto, Funaoka Onsen is the place to experience a traditional Japanese bath. It is among the oldest, most beautiful, and most established bathhouses in Kyoto. It is a must-visit.
Kuya no Taki Waterfalls
If you want an adventure that involves hiking, say no more and start putting on your trusty hiking shoes because we’re going to Kuya no Taki waterfalls! This waterfall was named after the monk who founded the Rokuharamitsu-ji in Kyoto more than a thousand years ago.
The train starts at Kiyotaki, which is a 40-minute hike to the waterfall. It’s quite a tedious hike, but the sight of its beautiful scenery will wash away all the fatigue you felt while hiking. Take your time and feel the cool touch of the pool of water that accumulates beneath the pool.
The Tenryuji is a Zen temple established by the Rinzai sect of Buddhism back in 1339. This temple is located in the beautiful Arashiyama area, near the scenic bamboo grove. It was made popular by the looming Dragon Painting that seemingly watches over the temple and all its worshippers. Once you look up, you will be met by the piercing gaze of this almighty mythical creature.
When you head over to the courtyard and garden of the Tenryuji Temple, you will also surely be in awe of the famed Sogen Chiteien garden, which is a masterpiece by the Zen priest Muso Soseki. It is so breathtakingly beautiful indeed that it was declared Japan’s first national scenic site and historic landmark.
The Nonomiya Shrine situated in the center of the bamboo grove of Arashiyama was initially built as a sacred purification space. Back in the day, it served as the residence of the Ise Shrine Priestess, well-known for its iconic black torii gate and brushwood fences. The Nonomiya Shrine was forever immortalized when it was described in the tenth chapter of “The Tale of Genji,” which is the world’s oldest extant novel.
Moreover, the Nonomiya Shrine is a match-making temple, so if you are a hopeless romantic who’s praying to all the Gods for some luck in finding your fated half, this shrine is a must-visit for you. Aside from match-making, this shrine is also dedicated to those who wish to pray for luck in their marriages and childbirth. Not to mention, the beautiful moss gardens here really give off a serene and sacred atmosphere.
The Kurama Temple is a mountain temple in Kyoto famed for the long-nosed goblins or tengu who are supposedly watching over this mountain temple. The Kurama temple is perfect for that is the perfect spot for tourists who want to hike while taking in the beauty of Japan’s mountain landscape views. The temple also boasts a rich history that you can learn from if you ask the locals near there.
Cultural Immersion in Kyoto
The city of Kyoto, with all its mystic and sacred temples, shrines, as well as breathtaking landscapes, is surely a place you would go back to time and time again. Steeped in culture, history, and even myths and legends, this idyllic city is the perfect place to be if you want to have a serene epiphany away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds here in Japan.