Kyoto forms one of those quaint Japanese cities that everyone should visit at least once. Forming the capital of Japan over a thousand years ago and now the country’s seventh largest city, Kyoto is home to thousands of breathtaking architectural wonders. From the mysterious geisha district to the endless temples and shrines; it’s easy to see why this should be at the top of any travel bucket list when visiting Japan. Here are x indispensable tips to visiting Kyoto.
Be prepared to walk
Kyoto is a beautiful city to explore on foot. Be sure to wander down the side streets and hidden alleyways. Cross those little foot bridges and canals too. With the endless number of things to see and do in Kyoto, it’s easy to spend a complete day out walking! Bring comfortable shoes and carry lots of water and snacks.
The great thing about Kyoto is that the bigger shopping centers are open seven days a week between 10:00 am and 9:00 pm so late night shopping is a must! Convenience stores are usually open twenty four seven so if you’re looking for late night snacks or emergency essentials, you’ll always be able to get them.
From public transport to just walking in public, the locals tend to be silent most of the time and if they are interacting, will almost whisper when doing so. The silence on public transport can be somewhat intimidating for those of us that are not used to being quiet but as long as you don’t make large boisterous gestures that disrupts the silence around you, then you’ll be fine.
Flea markets are held every week in shrines and temples throughout Kyoto. Be sure to visit on the 15th, 21st and 25th of every month when the more popular flea markets are held. The three main markets are held at the Chion-ji Temple, To-ji Temple and Kitano Tenmangu Temple on the above mentioned dates respectively.
- Visit the market at Chion-ji Temple on the 15th of every month to pick up a host of handcrafted goods, food and pottery.
- Visit the To-ji Temple on the 21st of every month for bonsai trees, secondhand kimonos, paintings and other antiques.
- Visit the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine on the 25th of every month for antiques and other curios as well as local food and drink.
One of the many things that surprised me was the free cell phone that came with our hotel room! One of the fascinating things that Japanese hotels do is offer guests the rental of cellular phones and while you don’t have to pay for the phone itself, you just pay for the service of cell provider. This way you will always be to access Google maps and shouldn’t get lost!
Apart from silence, being punctual is another characteristic Japanese trait that should be respected and followed. You should never be late for a meeting or a visit under no circumstances. If you plan to travel using public transport, remember that these buses and train schedules run right down to the very minute and are always almost on time.
The great thing about Kyoto is that many of the shrines, temples and gardens do not have any admission costs. That means you won’t have to pay to enter! Common places with no entrance fees include Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Yasaka Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves and the Ninna-ji Temple.
While tipping is mandatory in many western countries, this is not accepted in Kyoto. Be mindful of these customs when interacting with waiters, taxi drivers or hotel attendees, whereby a simple thank you will do. Be mindful that some of the more upscale or modern restaurants and hotels may include a 10 % service charge in the final bill.