Kyoto is the version of Japan that you often see on postcards or on the cover of the Lonely Planet. It’s beautiful beyond all sense, shrines and temples everywhere you look and a wide, tumbling river bisecting the city. It’s slower-paced than Osaka, quieter than Tokyo. Kyoto is graceful, well-preserved and at least for us, almost proved impossible to see.
Our time in Kyoto coincided with the Autumn Leaves Festival. Basically, Japanese leaf-peeping. And, since Kyoto is so darn gorgeous, its a super popular place to peep at leaves. Thus, the only accomodation we could find in the city was way out in the ‘burbs. The tiny little house we rented had traditional futon mattresses on the floor, a shower in the kitchen and the toilet in the living room. Let’s just say, it’s a good thing we all really like each other.
Having said that, once we found accomodation, getting TO Kyoto was very easy. Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto are all so close together that their outer suburbs just form one long sprawl. We took a train from Osaka and one Button lap-nap, 10 stops and a one kilometre walk brought us right to our new doorstep!
We only had three days in Kyoto, so we hustled to hit the highlights. Andy and I had been to Kyoto before but we’d missed the Fushimi-Inari shrine, so that was first on our list. The shrine is said to have 1,000 lacquered orange gates. After walking for over an hour, I reckon it might be more than 1,000. The shrine was packed with other sightseers as well as local people who had come to leave offerings. It was beautiful and Georgia loved peaking through the gates at the forest around us.
The next day we took a small local train up to Kumara Village in the mountains north of Kyoto. I’d highly recommend a day trip to Kumara for families travelling with kids. We took a gondola ride part way up the mountain and then continued the climb to the top from there. The shrines and temples along the way were gorgeous and the walk back down may have been even more scenic with dozens of little shrines, bridges and ponds. The legend of the boy who hid in the hills and practiced with his sword totally captivated Georgia’s imagination and she still talks about the statue of the boy by the train station!
We also celebrated Thanksgiving while we were in Kyoto. I must say, I felt extra thankful this year for the opportunity to travel with my family and to show our daughter that the world is a good, safe place full of kind and loving people of all nationalities and cultures. Kyoto was a joy for all of us.