Travel: Kyoto. 10 things

IMG_4805I had a couple of days after Vipassana meditation camp in Kyoto to explore the city. There are plenty of expert Japanese travel guides and fantastic list of things to eat/see/do, but I didn’t get caught up in the FOMO (fear of missing out) in a frantic rush to get through list of places and activities to brag about on social media, so there’s unfortunately none of that here.

Kyoto is a city that has a rich history that spans thousands of years and once served as the imperial capital for more than a millenium, from the year 794 until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1868. The city today is known for its shrines, traditional zen gardens and historic districts, as well as their tofu – we ate plenty of this during our dharma vipassana camp various forms of tofu, beancurd skins in different shapes, forms and textures.


Here are some highlights from my trip that I really enjoyed, taking it all in. The land of beancurd, zen gardens and beautiful ancient architecture and shrines.

I have a new level of appreciation for the efforts and thoughtfulness in landscaping.

I also learnt a new word Komorebi – a poetic word to describe the beauty of sun rays streaming through the canopy of leaves overhead.

  1. And then discovered a wine bar called Komorebino that serves organic bio wines. Clearly the 10 days of silence and 10 hours of meditation a day bootcamp left me and my Vipassana mate craving for some stimuli. A joy in life I will not give up. Everything in moderation, right?

How can we say no to a Yeti on the label?

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2. The Kyoto train station designed by Japanese architect Hiroshi Hara. The expansive station has a huge rooftop garden – so nice sitting outside in Spring May weather. The station was laid out in the city’s ancient grid and care was taken to make sure it cast no shadow around the neighbouring building.

Pick up some last minute snacks and shopping in the Isetan before boarding your train.


3. Lunch with a view at Ryoanji. I came to see the famous zen garden of stones, 15 of them in total but at any given angle, one can only see 14.

They have delicious vegetarian meals and specialise in tofus.


They also have a super cute pay phone that fits right into a Wes Anderson film set.IMG_0567


4. Ventured west to the Arashiyama district but didn’t get on the scenic Sagano train but took a walk in the area and the bamboo forest.

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5. Interesting “stacking” jenga style architecture in the area of Fushimi Inari, the famous orange torii gates.


I went around 8am which is really early, but it seems like everyone had the same idea, so it gets pretty crowded with lots of people trying to pose for photos and take selfies. Get there early to beat the crowd that starts descending about 11am.


There’s a street of snacks at the foot of Fushimi Inari.IMG_2810

6. Markets. Checked out several and ate my way through. These hedgehog custard buns were pretty yum.


I did make a note to check out hte fabric shops in Kyoto, Nomura Tailor has two outlets and it’s definitely worth a look.IMG_6776

Cheese tarts.

IMG_7550Strawberry cheese tarts.


7. Golden shrine Kinkakuji. Again go really early to beat the stress of jostling with hoards of tourists.

The landscaping is a marvel in itself. And observe all the reflections of the trees on the water too.IMG_7627

8. Geishas. Did you read the book Memoires of a Geisha? It’s been a long time since I last read it. Was lucky enough to catch Geishas cruising the alleys in Gion district.


9. All in the details. Nature, fruits, plants.      IMG_4802 IMG_4801    IMG_4777

10. The shrines and rituals of washing your hands, rinsing your mouth and then ringing the bell and throwing coins for prayers and wishes to be answered.


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