Here is the second installment of our Tokyo and Kyoto anniversary trip. We were in Kyoto for 4 full days, so we were able to do day trips twice which were very easy, and also necessary as a Zen retreat from the craziness of downtown.
The first one we did was take the small train (really, more like a tram) up the northern mountains of Kyoto into the valleys of Kurama and Kibune. From Kurama there is a 45 minute hike up a mountain to a temple with a fantastic view, and then it’s downhill 45 minutes to Kibune. Although the guidebooks say you can start in either town, I highly suggest following the path we did and starting around 9 or 10 in the morning latest. The hike up to the temple is on manicured steps and pathways on the Kurama side, whereas the Kibune side is much more vigorous and mostly tree trunks as steps. Also, Kurama is a much sleepier town with less of a view, so ending in Kibune with several cute cafes for lunch is highly suggested. We stopped at Kifune, a small rustic cafe with a delicious matcha tea and simple japanese food. The town is along a one lane road next to a cascading river, so everywhere you look is picturesque. If you go in spring through September, they set up outdoor restaurants on stilts above the river, which we were dying to do but missed by a week.
We had some delicious food in Kyoto as well, including MORE ramen and plenty of matcha, The ramen we had was ‘burned’ which is a different style found mostly in this region of Japan. It’s a darker ramen that heated in a wok and lit on fire, so it has a layer of smokey black oil. Sounds gross, tastes legit.
Kyoto is also the main matcha tea growing region, so matcha tea and sweets are more prevalent in this area than anywhere else in Japan. I finally had my fix, as we enjoyed drinks and treats from Maccha House, Ippodo Tea (world famous), and every other stall on the street.
While in Kyoto we ventured into Gion one night, which is known to be one of the more concentrated and higher quality locations to see Geisha. I actually saw 5 that night, but only managed to get one photo which you can see below. They are truly a special site, and if you have read Memoirs of a Geisha you know understand the toil they go through in order to become one.
Finally, the last day of our stay in Kyoto we took a train to the western region of Arashiyama, sight of the famous bamboo forest. While we enjoyed the majestic beauty of the bamboo, the ‘forest’ was much smaller than we had thought, so we ended up lounging around the river in Arashiyama and lounging at our hotel. We had walked over 70 miles on this trip so far, so by the last day we were thrilled to enjoy our matcha and watch the leaves turn. Hopefully you enjoy looking through this pictures!