All posts filed under: Kyoto

Places that I have visited in Kyoto, Japan

Inoda Coffee at Kiyomizu Higashiyama - Kyoto Cafes

Inoda Coffee // Kyoto’s Old School Café

Founded since 1940, Inoda Coffee イノダコーヒ has been a beloved coffeehouse for more than 69 years, serving the residents of Kyoto with its own brand of coffee. Its first café opened in 1947 in Sanjyo 三条, and it has 7 other branches in Kyoto, 1 in Osaka, 1 in Hiroshima, 1 in Hokkaido, 1 in Tokyo, and 1 in Yokohama. It also has a take-out cake shop in Kyoto, called Ketel. Don’t expect swanky or hipster vibes in this Kyoto café. Inoda Coffee houses an old school charm that still appeals to the everyday lives of locals. There are no frills, no fuss, just a strangely familiar comfort that seems to belong to bygone days. Since 1947, Inoda Coffee has been a beloved coffeehouse for more than 69 years, serving the residents of Kyoto with its own brand of coffee. Instead of visiting the flagship café or honten 本店, we always made our way to the one in Kiyomizu as part of our exploration of the Higashiyama district 東山区 after visiting Kiyomizu-dera. You need strong knees …

Kiyomizu-dera Autumn Maple Trees - Kyoto Temple

8 Things to do at Kiyomizu-dera // Kyoto’s Nailless Hillside Temple

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) is Kyoto’s most famous temple. Almost every traveller who passes through Kyoto would have made a trip to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site, built on the hillside of Higashiyama. And if an airline or a travel agency would have to pick a representative picture of Kyoto, we bet a photo of Kiyomizu-dera in its autumn splendor would have been one of the top 3 choices, if not the first. For friends travelling to Kyoto with us for the first time, we’ll definitely put Kiyomizu-dera on the itinerary. This meant that we have visited Kiyomizu-dera 3 times! Don’t we tire of it? Not at all. The charm of Kiyomizu-dera extends beyond the temple itself to the Higashiyama district 東山区, a meandering historical area that seeks to be explored again and again. It’s also about an hour’s walk to the Gion district. An uphill trek through the steep Kiyomizu-michi 清水道, or Chawan-zaka 茶碗坂 (Teapot Lane) preludes a visit to Kiyomizu-dera. Shops selling souvenirs, Kyoto snacks, street food, and handicrafts line Chawan-zaka, marking it as a popular spot for getting gifts …

Nishiki Traditional Market - Kyoto Japan

Nishiki Market // 5 Must-Eats in Kyoto’s Kitchen

Nishiki Market (錦市場), fondly known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, has been around for more than 400 years. Traditional food vendors, small cooked food shops, and eateries line this 400-metre street. The potential of this street extends beyond these 400 metres. Running perpendicular to Nishiki Market is Teramachi-dori (寺町通), an organized labyrinth of shops and restaurants worth exploring. Weaved into the smaller lanes, you will find vintage shops, small eateries, and the famous Sou•Sou shops. Parallel to Nishiki Market is the shopping belt of Kyoto, Shijō-dori (四条通), where you’ll find bigger shopping malls and boutique shops. We’ll dedicate a separate post to these later on. Stay tuned!   The array of fresh vegetables, local fruits, seafood, meat, pickled foodstuff, condiments, and ingredients will have you weaving in and out of the traditional food shops if you love to cook. Such was the allure of seeing in person, those heirloom Kyoto vegetables (京野菜 kyōyasai) cultivated since the Meiji Era, that you’ve only heard of, or seen on television – the sweet spring onions called Kujo negi (九条ねぎ), round eggplants called Kamo …

Moss Bridge in Moss Garden - Kokedera Kyoto

Saihoji Kokedera // Kyoto’s Magical Moss Garden

It’s like walking in a giant terrarium. The place. A temple garden with thousands of moss varieties. The little figurines. You. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saihōji (西芳寺) or Kokedera (苔寺) is magical, out-of-this-world, surreal, and an ancient treasure. With such superlatives for this Kyoto site, you don’t see as much content or information out there as compared to say, Kiyomizudera or Gion. Why? Some might wonder. It’s not easy to get there. Not the usual tourist routes, there are buses to Kokedera but no trains. You have to make a reservation with a return postcard at least 1 to 2 months (depending on how fast your postal service is) prior to your intended visit. Advance planning is required, of which many didn’t get a chance to do for their travels. There are only 1 stipulated visiting time each day. The time of visit varies, and is decided by the temple. It has been said that latecomers do not get to enter and are shut outside the door. You know how travelling tends to get …

Tofuku-ji Kyoto // A Must-Visit for Spectacular Autumn Colors

Autumn is a fantastic time to be in Kyoto, Japan. During this season, leaves change their green coats to varying shades of vibrant yellows, flaming oranges and deep reds. Famed gardens and ancient trees are prevalent in the many shrines spotted all over Kyoto. I knew I had to be in Kyoto during autumn at least once in my life to witness these autumn colors or kōyō (紅葉) with my own eyes. With that many gardens and shrines in Kyoto, we had to be selective in the places we were going to visit. Time is limited during travels, but isn’t that always the case? Considered as Kyoto’s five greatest zen temples or Kyoto Gozan (京都御座), Tōfuku-ji (東福寺) was found in 1236 and its huge garden, which left an unforgettable mark in my experience and memory, was designed in the 1930s by landscape architect Mirei Shigemori – landscape architect of Tofuku-ji in Kyoto. Even before reaching the main gate where we had to pay our entry fees, towering trees in their glorious reds greeted us. Across …

Sagano-Yu Cafe Style Resort // After Arashiyama and Bamboo Groves

Our feet were screaming for respite, our palates in need of something sweet, and our body craved for a warm cuppa, after that trek to admire the bamboo groves, Arashiyama and Katsura River. Right along the street from Saga-Arashiyama station to Tenryu-ji is Sagano-Yu Cafe Style Resort 嵯峨野湯, a public bathhouse turned cafe. Don’t be fooled by the spotless exterior of Sagano-Yu Cafe. It was built in 1923 as Sagayu Bathhouse and refurbished into a teahouse in August 10, 2006. Beyond its cool white doors are warm wooden furniture, exposed bricks, quiet conversations and shared laughter. We had to put down our names on the waiting list, as there was a queue of like-minded, tired people wanting a table. While waiting, we wandered up the steep stairs to the 2nd level where you would find a little space selling a plethora of handmade goods – from accessories and knits, to kitchenware and food. We were intrigued by the rustic display at the bottom of the stairs, but disappointingly, it’s not as well stocked, or as …

Shirakawa Gion // Kyoto’s Most Beautiful Street

If you are a traveler from overseas on a tour group, tour guides might skip this part of Kyoto and head straight to the busy hub of Gion (祇園) for shopping and food. Dubbed by locals as Kyoto’s most beautiful street, Shirakawa (白川) is a few minutes’ walk from central Gion and the Hanamichi (花道小路) area. It is off the beaten path, and there seemed to be no sight of other tourists when we visited it. The street runs into a Y-shape, with a little shrine situated at the intersection. This little red shrine, like the Yasaka Shrine, was frequented by geishas living in that area. And by our lucky stars, we caught a happy couple taking their wedding photos at this picturesque place just when we reached it. A babbling stream runs through this street with shops, restaurants and tea houses lining one side of it. On the other side, you see willow trees, cherry blossom trees and Japanese maple trees. The majestic willow trees were indeed a sight. Their long strings of leaves …

Hisago // The Best Oyako-Don I Have Ever Tasted

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to locate Hisago (ひさご) in Kyoto, Japan. We definitely did not expect to see such a long queue outside the restaurant, not when the restaurant opens at 11.30am for lunch. It’s off the usual track for most travelers, and pretty out of the way. That is why we didn’t think many would go to the trouble of finding this place. Since we finished early at our previous visit at Kiyomizudera 清水寺, we decided to take a leisurely walk exploring some really old streets and houses. We reached Hisago (ひさご) at about 11am. Somehow, you know you have stumbled upon an excellent place to eat when you see Japanese of different ages in the queue – young, families with toddlers, elderly folk, groups of teenagers, and of course, tourists from different countries. I heard Taiwanese, French, Thai, Korean, English and Chinese while I stood in queue with the rest. Our curiosity piqued with more and more joining the queue. Many times, we contemplated on abandoning the queue …

Shopping in Gion // Buys that are uniquely Kyoto

One place that no tourist would miss in Kyoto is spending an evening in Gion (祇園) – a place best known as the district where geishas reside, entertain, wait to be ‘rescued’ by their patrons, and where maikos learn their art while serving the needs of their bigger sisters. And if you have read or watched ‘Memoirs of the Geisha’, a visit to Gion must be in the cards. There is much to do here – shopping for scarves and superbly made canvas totes, having kaiseki dinner (懐石料理) in the famous geisha quarters at Hanamichi (花道小路), exploring the most beautiful street in Kyoto near the babbling brook of Shirakawa (白川), and watching the sun set over Gion Shrine (八坂神社 / 祇園神社). To leisurely enjoy the sights and experiences that Gion has to offer, I would suggest heading to Gion in late afternoon to get some shopping done, and then enjoy a stroll to catch the sun setting over Shirakawa and Gion Shrine, before dinner at one of those nostalgic restaurants along Hanamichi which will bring …