An elegant little city that stands as a stark contrast to its busy counterpart Tokyo, Kyoto is a beautiful town to be in. People go here to fall in love. They also visit Kyoto to see what’s left of fast-developing Japan. The elaborately decorated shrines, gold spewing palaces, their gardens, Instagram loving street food and bamboo frame-markers do their trick and make you reluctant in leaving. Visit this city for its energy as a Geisha welding, archway entranced and cherry-blossomed air. More importantly, know where it gets expensive and stick to being a meek tourist-these are the top attractions and free things to do in Kyoto…
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove:
Kyoto’s trademark bamboo forest pictures were made right here. On either side of this beautiful mud walk, there are majestic looking stalks rising up to the sky. The entrance is free, the pathway is almost infinite. So the bamboo filled sky is your limit!
The best way to experience Japan’s hidden gems? Spend a few hours getting lost in many charming and atmospheric alleys – often filled with historic buildings and traditional local restaurants. Pictured is the historic Gion district in Kyoto – famed for its geisha spotting opportunities, as captured by photographer @een_wasbeer #VisitJapanAU
Gion is one of those almost urban neighbourhoods that still hold the spirit of the pre-colonial Japan. Geishas still prowl the streets and pour tea in the tea rooms. The pretty wooden houses sometimes house a spa, sometimes a fully regal meal too. So, be on the lookout for that. Food streets come and go, but the night food markets are brilliant with all your ‘Spirited Away’ dishes right in place-all you can experience free of cost! During Cherry Blossom season, people bring out cobalt blue mats and sit under the falling flowers. This is one of the best things you could do while in Kyoto if you get lucky. The streets are picturesque spots to take to Instagram too!
3. Imperial Palace:
The garden surrounding the Imperial garden houses ponds, tiny woods and even statue galleries. They add so much sublimity to the already lit palace. The green hues work well with the stone-whites of Palace walls. Free entry? Absolutely!
4. Kyoto Station:
This station is where you should go if you need a quick break from all the green(if that ever happens!). Not only is it the second largest train station in the country, but it is also one of the largest buildings in the country to have been built in that style. It has a mall, a movie theatre, a departmental store and many government offices, all you can tour for free.
5. Philosophy Walk:
The name comes from Kitaro Nishida, a philosopher of Kyoto University who used to take walks along this route. There is a canal that runs parallel to this walkway. Cherry Blossom trees line up the way in a striking manner. Walking down this lonely road is one of the most fulfilling free things to do in Kyoto!
6. Nishiki Market
Imagine walking a busy sphere full of people bustling in their stalls and another set of people walking briskly getting their businesses done. Aromas of seafood and sweet pancakes being cooked and the sight of rice wines and fruit desserts lined up alluring you. Now that you’ve pictured it, know this. Window-shop this place totally for free or buy some of the best goods in Kyoto at neat prices. You could try your hand at bargaining with the Japanese too.
7. Fushimi Inari
Again, this is a trademark of all the Kyoto photographers and models. The back created by orange rails in the complex facade puts up a great show. It is a shrine built for Inari, the Shinto God of rice. Go there during the early stages of the evening. Take a leisurely stroll along the nearby mountains and end up here.
8. Nanzenji Suirokaku:
This place brims with history and heritage. The maple trees and red-green moss set the mood pretty well. The Roman-style aqueduct is very much talked about. You might even find the casual Akita and he/she might be nice enough to let you pet. Not to forget, this is a temple!
9. Sannenzaka Ninenzaka:
Sannenzaka Ninenzaka is another sharp looking neighbourhood full of wooden houses and tranquillity that delight you to the soul. They only have pedestrian-only lanes lining up each street. This is the reason for the reduced pollution and ecstatically deserted streets. This part of Kyoto is much lesser noisy than the already soulful city. How they preserved the older times of the place is beyond me. There aren’t even any overhead power lines! The district is also full of teahouses and exotic restaurants that give you a taste of Japan before electricity.
10. Kifune Shrine:
A visit to this Shrine is sure to give you a life full of happy love. Hence the unwavering couples that sit around the arena. Other than that, this is a relatively silent place, sometimes even eerily empty. During autumn, the colours are much more vibrant. I do not know if their worshipping of the shrine will ensure a life of life, but let me tell you this. After a grand train ride and a river, you arrive here. Climbing the stairs of the forest-valley, bypassing the numbers of lanterns on your side, smiling at the sitting couples: all this while the tall green maple trees watch you. After a good time in the woods, you arrive at the shrine and sit down for a while. You’re filled with a deep sense of contentedness and now have no worry in the world. The mountains effuse ethereal air and the autumn leaves float in the air. The shrine of 1300 years, is surely a great setting for romance and love.