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Visiting Kyoto’s Top Attractions

By Posted on 3 min read 1232 views

After spending a week in Tokyo and three days in Osaka, we had three days to spend in Kyoto. I’ll admit I got a bit overwhelmed when planning what to do because there is SO MUCH to do in Kyoto. You could easily spend a week or two there and not run out of places to visit. Many of the sights are quite spread out as well, which means that we had to take buses and trains across town. In the end we were very happy with how much we managed to squeeze in; we saw everything that I was dying to see and we didn’t have to rush! To help you plan your trip, here are the top sights that I think you just have to see if you’re visiting Kyoto.

Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)kinkakuji kyoto golden paviliongolden pavilion kinkakuji kyoto

The famous Golden Pavilion looks beautiful in photos and it’s even better in person. I could barely believe my eyes, it seemed almost unreal! Definitely worth visiting, despite being further away from the other sights and being very crowded during peak tourist season.

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There’s something very tranquil and peaceful about walking through the bamboo forest, even when there is a crowd of tourists around you. If you’re going during peak season like we did I would suggest going early in the morning before the big groups get there. Make sure you also visit the beautiful gardens of Okochi-Sanso Villa and Tenryu-ji Temple while you’re in the neighbourhood.

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Probably one of the most iconic sights in Kyoto, the red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine are a pleasure to walk through. Inari is the god of rice and the patron of business and merchants. Each gate is donated by a Japanese business and you’ll find many stone foxes here which are Inari’s messengers. If the path through the gates seems crowded, just make sure you keep walking after most of the tourists have moved on to their next selfie destination! It gets very peaceful after around 15mins of walking up steps, and you get to see a nice view of Kyoto as well.

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This huge temple is one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s a beautiful place to see cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, and sunsets over the city. In addition to the main wooden hall, you can explore a few other buildings, waterfalls and shrines on site. The temple even has its own stunning Instagram account which you should check out!

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zakakyoto sannenzaka cherry blossomkyoto cherry blossomskyoto attractions sannenzaka blog

These streets are so charming, they will make you fall in love with Kyoto. Lined with pretty old houses and nice little boutiques, it’s just a shame they are were crowded with tourists when we were there (like much of Kyoto during the cherry blossom season).

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The Gion district is famous for its geishas; head to the southern end of Hanamikoji Dori street in the evening to soak up the charming atmosphere and you might just spot one! It’s also the perfect place for afternoon tea, Japanese style – we loved Gion Mitoko.

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According to Lonely Planet, this is probably the most beautiful street in Asia. When cherry trees are in full bloom it’s incredibly pretty. It’s also full of young couples taking wedding pictures and girls taking graduation pictures in kimonos, which makes it even more fun to walk up and down. It’s lovely at night as well – we had a wonderful dinner in one of the restaurants facing the canal (Kanikakuni).

Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku-no-Michi)philosopher's path kyoto path of philosophy kyoto philosophers path cherry blossoms kyoto

I’m not sure what the Philosopher’s Path is like the rest of the year, but during cherry blossom season it is the most amazing, magical place. It’s really just a canal lined with cherry trees, but it’s spectacular when everything is in bloom. Make sure you stop for a cherry blossom flavoured ice cream!

Silver Pavilion (Gingaku-ji)ginkaku-ji kyoto Silver PavilionGinkakuji Kyoto Silver Pavilion

This Zen temple was modelled after the Golden Pavilion, and although it has never been silver most people know it as the Silver Pavilion. It’s surrounded by a peaceful Japanese garden with ponds and moss-covered trees.

 

These are Kyoto's top attractions, from the bamboo grove to the most important temples and shrines.

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After spending just a few hours in Kyoto, I fell totally in love with the place. It felt like another world, filled with pink cherry blossoms, Japanese gardens and beautiful geishas. I honestly thought Tokyo would be my favourite place in Japan (if not the world!) but Kyoto stole my heart!

What’s your favourite thing about Kyoto?

What to do in Akihabara, Tokyo

By Posted on 2 min read 4458 views

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AKIHABARA

‘Akiba’ is the place for spotting teenage boys go crazy for anime, manga, maid cafes and video game arcades. It’s one of those neighbourhoods that just makes you think “wow, I’m in Tokyo!”. I recommend spending a few hours here just taking it in. Visit on a Sunday if you can because the main street is closed to traffic.

Visit Taito Game Station

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Look for this big red building

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You’re going to want to go through all 6 floors (including the basement) to really soak up the madness. People of all ages, especially men, come here to play all sorts of games, from crane games to music games. This place seemed totally crazy to me – I’ve never seen anything like it!

Have a mini Pablo cheese tart

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When there’s a queue in front of it, you know it’s good! We saw these Pablo tarts in various locations in Japan but we just couldn’t resist them in their mini version. My favourite flavour was chocolate, but make sure you try the matcha too!

Go to an Owl Cafe

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akibafukurou owl cafe

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Our visit to Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe was a big highlight of our time in Tokyo. For 1,500 yen (around £10) you can spend one hour with the owls, and you will be able to hold two owls of your choice during this time. You get a laminated (!) picture of yourself with an owl to take home too! Make sure you send them an email beforehand to reserve a place.

Shop for electronics or manga

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Akihabara used to just be the go-to place for electronics, but now it’s also home to Tokyo’s otaku, or die-hard fans of anime and manga. Yodobashi Camera is the place to go for all sorts of electronics, although Akihabara Radio Center is the original collection of little stores that opened after WWII and made the area famous for electronics. If you’re looking for all sorts of manga collectibles you should try Mandarake, although there are many great smaller shops around too.

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Akihabara is definitely one of those neighbourhoods you have to see when you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time. Although I’m not into electronics or manga, I loved the buzzing atmosphere and the weirdness of it all! It’s a very cool place to visit. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

If you’re going to Tokyo let me know how your trip goes! I’d love to see pictures.

If you’ve been before, please share your tips in the comments!

If you're in Tokyo, you have to visit Akihabara! It's a crazy neighbourhood full of anime, gaming, electronics and maid cafes.

5 Tips for Planning a Trip to Japan

By Posted on 3 min read 4606 views

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Travelling to Japan takes more preparation than your average holiday – at least that’s what I found. Some things I wish I’d looked into earlier than I did, others I was glad I had researched long in advance! Here are the five things I think everyone should do before getting on a plane to Japan:

Book hotels

So this may seem obvious to you, but I made the mistake of booking my flights long in advance then waiting several months before bothering to look into hotels. Hotels are expensive in Japan, especially during cherry blossom season! Don’t leave it to the last minute. For Tokyo, we ended up splurging on the wonderful Grand Hyatt Hotel for a few days, then being very disappointed by an APA Hotel in Shinjuku. Kyoto hotels seemed so busy at the weekends that we went to Osaka for a couple of nights before going there. If you want a more authentic experience, book a ryokan well in advance, preferably one that will serve food. If you’re thinking about trying a capsule hotel have a look at my tips or those of Travel Outlandish before you book!

Buy a Japan Rail Pass

If you are going to be taking a few trains while you’re in Japan, you need to buy a JR Pass before you get there. This will be a lot cheaper than buying tickets in Japan and will save you the hassle of buying a ticket for every journey.  We found that our pass was really convenient for travelling between Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Arashiyama and Nara. You can even use it for the JR lines within Tokyo. Have a look at how Justine did the math if you’re not sure whether the pass is worth it.

Order a sim card or portable wifi

You can have a sim card or a portable wifi device sent to your hotel so that it’s there when you arrive. I used Japan Wireless, although there are a few other companies offering the same service. I found having a SIM card with data to be incredibly useful for using Google Maps and looking up where to go next when we were out and about. No worrying about the phone bill when you get back home and no desperately trying to catch some public wifi!

Learn a few words of Japanese

I found that locals actually speak more English than I expected, but knowing a few words of Japanese was still really useful. I loved memorising things from the Lonely Planet Phrasebook, and it was small enough to carry in my pocket. I also used a few apps to practice listening and pronunciation, like Mirai Japanese or Memrise.

Find out if you need to book things in advance

By the time I found out that you needed to make a reservation by mail for the magnificent Kokudera moss temple in Kyoto, it was too late! If you want to do go-karting around Tokyo, you need to apply for an international driving license before you go. To visit an owl cafe, it’s best to email a few days in advance. If you’re into your food, you might want to reserve some of the top restaurants before you fly out to Japan.

Some things you don’t need to book in advance include your Pasmo (which can be used for public transport in different cities), the famous robot restaurant in Shinjuku, and seats on trains which can be reserved on the day you are travelling.

 

Also useful to know is how much money you’re going to need. Creative Travel Guide have put together a great little guide that tells you how much you can expect to spend on food, transport and different types of accommodation in Tokyo.

 

Have a look at my other posts for more tips:

 

If you’re going to Japan, is there anything more you would like to know about?

If you’ve been there before, do you have any other tips?

 

How to prepare your trip to Japan, from buying a Japan Rail Pass to booking a trip to an owl cafe!

The Best Place to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo

By Posted on 2 min read 1496 views

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CHIDORIGAFUCHI

Going to Chidorigafuchi was one of the most wonderful experiences we had during our two week trip to Japan. The blossoms were so amazing that I got my phone out and filmed a bit when we arrived – make sure you view it in high quality:

Even though we went there on a grey day, the blossoms of Chidorigafuchi made us forget about the clouds above our heads. People were out in their hundreds just to catch the cherry trees in full bloom and maybe even go for a row in the river. There’s no park here, but there is Chidorigafuchi Path along the river which has an incredible view of the sakura.

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Although I haven’t been to every cherry blossom spot in Tokyo, I’m pretty sure that nothing can beat this (Japan Talk also have it as number one). It’s probably the most iconic image of Japanese cherry blossoms you’ll see, apart from those with Mount Fuji in the background! Expect it to be veeery busy during the hanami season, make sure you follow the direction of traffic (!), and if you want to go rowing you will have to join a very long queue (we skipped it as we were too tired already). All worth it though, I promise.

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I think the nicest way to get the Chidorigafuchi might be to walk through the Imperial Palace East Gardens first if you’re coming from Tokyo station or if you’ve just been shopping in Ginza. The nearest stations are Kudanshita, Hanzomon, and Ichigaya.

Seeing all the cherry blossoms in Tokyo and Kyoto was such a wonderful experience.

What are the best blossoms you’ve ever seen?

 

Where to see the most amazing cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan.

Postcard from Tokyo

By Posted on 1 min read 650 views

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Shinjuku Gyoen

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Mini matcha cheese tart

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Cherry blossoms!

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Kanarimon, the “Thunder gate”

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Crazy Akihabara neighbourhood

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Nakamise Street

Hello from Tokyo!

After five days here, I am completely in love with the city! It has such an amazing mix of old temples and bright lights, peaceful parks and exciting nightlife. My favourite parts have been visiting the area around Senso-ji temple, walking around Harajuku, and seeing all the big, bright lights near our hotel in Shinjuku. Oh, and going to the owl café and using some purikura photo booths – more on that later! I have so many photos to share on here and on Instagram, including lots of kawaii things!

Tomorrow we’re getting on a train to Osaka – exciting!

Anne-Sophie x