Waking up at 5:45 am on a day off? Yes, that’s me. My alarm supposed to ring at 6 am, but I was already awake before that even happened. I really wanted to go out early this day, to see the beautiful Higashijama district and Kiyomizudera temple without a crowed of people. Everyone says, that the best time to experience Kyoto’s touristy areas is early in the morning. And it’s absolutely true.
I walked from my home to the Kimogawa river, crossed the bridge and walked through the streets of Gion to the Higashijama district. I enjoyed it so much to be here without any other tourists. I was literally on my own with a few locals heading to work. These areas are in the afternoon and evening so crowded and not that much enjoyable, but in the morning, you can see the whole beauty.
Shinmonzen-dori, Shirakawa-Minami-dori, as well as Hanami-koji are definitely one of the most beautiful streets here. I would highly recommend wandering around the different little streets. From there it is not far to the Higashijama district. Because it was not even 7am the shops were obviously closed. Everything looked so peaceful and just beautiful. That’s how I imagined Japan.
I headed to Kiyomizudera temple. I would say that this temple is my favourite one so far. If you have just time to visit one temple in Kyoto, I would go there. It is a bit of a shame that the main temple is under construction, but you can go still inside, and the view is beautiful as well. The constructions remain until 2021, if I am right.
The Kiyomizudera temple area is quite big. You can have a lovely little walk through the forest to enjoy the nature and culture in once. I really enjoyed it.
Afterwards I headed back to the Higashijama ditrict, where I wanted to see the famous street heading to Hokanji Temple and the Yasaka-no-to-Pagoda. Many people think about this place, when thinking about Kyoto. And usually you see just people and people. I had this place for myself. I was so lucky to see this beautiful place in peace. It was totally worth it to wake up early.
For a little break I went to probably the most original Starbucks in the world. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I saw it already on YouTube and needed to have a look. The Starbucks shop looks just like a traditional Japanese house. When you enter there is a usual Starbucks counter selling the usual drinks and snacks as any other Starbucks. The menu is probably a little bit different, but that’s in every chain in Japan the case. Even Mc. Donalds has a special Menu for Japan. The atmosphere in this café is very unique. When you go on the first floor you will find traditional tatami floor areas to sit on the floor. It is beautiful, traditional and very comfortable. Tradition and modernity combined! I just sat there for a while, drank a tea and of course, used there Wifi, which is very rare to find in restaurants here.
Two overs later I continued my walk to Kodai-ji Temple. I liked the calm temple area and the nature by which it is surrounded.
Afterwards I walked to Maruyama park. I’ve been here already several times, but I really like this place. It is a nice park to relax and every time I am coming it looks a little bit different. I just sat in the shadow, enjoyed the beautiful weather and listened to music.
At Yasaka shrine I got finally the stamp for my little Temple book I bought a few weeks ago.
Around 12am I met Saito, a colleague from work. He works as part-timer in the same restaurant as I do. We met each other at Yasaka shrine and headed to a Soba restaurant. The shop is popular for the Nishi Soba, which is popular for Kyoto. I was happy to have a local Japanese friend with me, who can speak the language. It makes things just so much easier.
We had a nice conversation and enjoyed the delicious lunch. He really wants to practice his English with me, which is so nice to see.
Afterwards we walked a little bit through the streets and ended up at the famous Tsuji shop, which sells the best matcha ice cream in town. I haven’t tried matcha ice cream yet and it was definitely on my bucket list for Japan. They sell it everywhere here, but the quality and amount of matcha tea makes the difference between a good or a cheap one. We both ended up with the spring special edition. The matcha icecream with the strawberries, the coconut-strawberry jelly and a mochi was sooooooo delicious. Really good!
Next and last stop was Fushimi Inari Shrine. That’s probably the most famous attraction in Kyoto and I haven’t been there yet. I actually planned to go there another day early in the morning for the same reason to escape the amount of people. But Saito asked me why we don’t just go and have a look.
As imagined, there were many many people. It was Sunday and still the golden week in Japan. Nevertheless, we went all the stairs up through all the orange gates until we reached the top. It is one of the most special places I have ever been. Every gate symbolizes one donation. On each gate there is the name from the person who made this donation. Furthermore, the gates have a different height depending on how big this donation was.
It was super-hot and exhausting to walk all the way up, but we made it. And there were less and less people as further up we went.
Around 5pm we finished our excursion and headed back to the city centre. I walked and he took the bus back home. I never expected to do so much today, but it was wonderful, and I was really happy. Exhausted, but happy. I just made myself something for dinner, looked through all the pictures I made and chilled the rest of the evening. I saw so much in just one day, even though I am already for 2 months here. It is so much to see in Kyoto and I still haven’t seen everything.