Kyoto Walking Tour by

(All photos by thetravelguyshops. See more on Instagram here.)

Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion
The last time I went to Kyoto, I spent most of the day in the area surrounding Kiyomizudera and I absolutely loved it! It was Japan in its most authentic form. During the recent autumn season, I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to visit Japan’s ancient capital once again thanks to, a website that specializes in tours and activities around Japan. 
I was offered several options of tours in various cities in Japan. Out of the options available which included the Tsukiji fish market tour in Tokyo, making udon by hand in Osaka and a Sapporo day tour, I chose Kyoto since it’s the city of Japan I have been to the least number of times and unlike Tokyo or Osaka, most of the tourist spots can only be accessed by bus and not subways. What I love most about Voyagin’s service is: 
1) the variety of tours they offer; as mentioned above, there are so many to choose from!
2) how you can customize which attractions specifically you want to visit – this means no repeat visits of the same temple you’ve been to previously; 
3) More than 1 person can split the price of the tour which makes it very affordable; and 
4) that they employ the service of licensed Japanese tour guides who are fluent in English! This was important since my Japanese isn’t that proficient yet. (I also later found out that it’s really difficult to be a licensed tour guide in Japan, so it was reassuring to know I was with a knowledgeable professional! Not to mention having a tour guide-slash-photographer is better than traveling alone.)
Naturally, I picked the popular attractions that I haven’t been to, and there were still quite a lot in my opinion! Allow me to walk you through my walking tour day, starting from:
Toji Temple Flea Market
Toji Temple Flea Market
It seemed as though that for this trip, everything fell into place in terms of scheduling. The day before, I had just returned from a quick (shopping) trip from Guam and stayed with a Japanese friend at his airbnb in Osaka. On the day of the tour, 21st December, I made my way to the tourist information center of Kyoto Station which was the meeting place. It’s a good thing I went inside because I learned through the flyers that there was a flea market at a nearby temple on the 21st of every month, which happened to be that exact same day! The temple was also just 10 minutes away on foot! I soon saw my guide Koji and told him about the additional attraction I learned about for the day. As an experienced guide, he thought of the route in his head and we started walking.
It was raining that day, and luckily I was wearing a hoodie. Most of the items for sale were antiques and ceramics, but some street food were also available. Since the event was held only once a month, it was packed with locals!
Antiques at the Toji Temple Flea Market
Some 500yen street food at the Toji Temple Flea Market
Kinkakuji Temple
Truly a stunning masterpiece… standing in front of some temple in the background. HAHA!
We walked back to the bus terminal at Kyoto Station and purchased a one-day pass. A few minutes later, we boarded a public bus bound for Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. Here’s some trivia for you: the character 寺 (read as either “ji” or “tera/dera”) already means “temple,” which is why it would suffice to say just Kinkakuji or Kiyomizudera. As you can see, this is one of the things that makes Japanese difficult to learn: one kanji (Chinese character) can sometimes have over two ways of reading it. 
The entrance ticket was 500yen and Koji-san didn’t have to pay anything; all he had to do was flash his tour guide license. 
Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion

The view of the golden temple from across the lake was stunning. I can’t help but think how amazing it would look in winter, with snow adorning its roofs. Once you follow the path, it takes you uphill to a small temple where people come to pray.
The temple uphill from Kinkakuji 
Ring the bell and pray for good luck
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Taking a selfie just in case I don’t make it back out alive of this mysterious forest. I tend to exaggerate.

After Kinkakuji, we took another bus headed to what I consider to be the highlight of this trip: the mystical Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Koji-san said that there were normally much more people, so we were lucky to have visited at that time. The high bamboo stalks were overwhelming, in a good way. Being in that area evoked such an exhilarating sense of calm and peace.

Few (fellow) tourists. Awesome!
Girls just wanna have fun (in their kimonos!)
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Fushimi Inari Shrine)
The giant gate welcomes you!

From the bamboo forest Koji and I took a shortcut and instead of taking the bus, we walked to the train station nearby and boarded one bound for the Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of the most iconic attractions Kyoto is known for. Surprisingly, it was one of Kyoto’s tourist spots that’s located right in front of the station with the same name. 

A tour guide comes in handy.
Orange is the motif of the entire area, in case you didn’t notice.
A temple groundskeeper with their standard temple robe.
Tourists admire at some of the tens of thousands of torii (traditional Japanese gate) at the site
Despite being called a shrine, all the torii gates are actually donations by corporations in order for their business to prosper. In fact, Koji-san told me that the shrine decided to switch from stone (?) to wooden gates because the latter eventually decays and need to be replaced. Apparently, it’s all about capitalism here. But regardless of the intent and motive behind the gates’ existence, they remain to be heavily a visited and Instagrammed location.

Where will each path take you? Also, is that a (real) Burberry scarf?
Nishiki Market

Toward the end of the day, we finally take another subway ride to the Gion area by means of Gion-Shijo Station. We head to Nishiki Market, which I discovered to be a great place to shop for unique local omiyage (souvenirs), despite the shops closing very early.
The thriving Nishiki Market
Authentic Japanese omiyage for sale
Gion District, The Geisha District
Sekkusu and The City – Kyoto Version
Finally, we reach the Gion district. Koji was really hoping to spot a geisha in this area, with the anticipation of a Pokemon trainer trying to find a rare (if not shiny) Pokemon. We even checked out the Gion Corner which is where the geisha perform their cultural show, but no luck in seeing a real geisha or even a maiko (an apprentice geisha) that night. 
It’s amazing how the Japanese have preserved areas like these for decades or centuries.

Nonetheless, simply being in this exact area takes you back over a hundred or so years to ancient Japan. It was truly a wonderful way to end the tour and the night.  

– End of Tour –

To book a similar Kyoto tour from Voyagin, click here
For other options in the Kyoto area, click here


Thanks for joining me on my trip to Kyoto and thanks to Voyagin! -thetravelguyshops

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Hi! I'm Kevin, a published travel writer, and this is my travel blog about first and business class flights, airport lounges, shopping, visa information and local travel credit cards for mileage programs. In 2017, I fulfilled my personal goal of visiting over 30 countries before I turned 30 years old and I would be more than glad to help you achieve your own #travelgoals too. ;)

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