“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
Kyoto, the former capital of Japan and the only major city to escape significant bombing during World War II is an enchanting place full of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines alongside soaring modern skyscrapers.
Known as the thousand-year-capital, this is a big and modern city, Kyoto, like all Japanese cities is a busy one, but somehow retains a serenity not often found in our modern environment.
Temples and shrines of Kyoto
The magnificent Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, both large and small, some hidden among forested hillsides are one of the main draws here and helps to make Kyoto an especially intriguing place.
Escaping the sprawl of the inner city, one can hike or ride a bike from temple to temple on a sort of pilgrimage and take in the peaceful woods that surround many of them.
It’s intriguing to discover the way Buddhism and Shinto coexist peacefully in this country. The mingling was best explained to me on a walking tour with a local guide Johnny Hillwalker, which I recommend you take. Mr. Hillwalker demonstrated that in Japan, while Shinto is the religion of living, Buddhism serves the functions of death.
Sit a while, take in the quiet and enjoy the special atmosphere these temple grounds provide. Here is a great link to some of the so called must see temples.
Getting around Kyoto
In addition to hiking, bike riding is an easy way to see the city with well defined bike lanes and widespread use by the Japanese people, is the preferred method of transportation.
Ever polite, the natives are prone to give cyclists the right of way and seeing the city by bike is really a leisurely way to get around.
For longer treks, you might want to check out the public transit system, which is excellent, as well.
Food of Kyoto
No trip would be complete without sampling some of the food, and Japan of course doesn’t slack in this department with carefully and lovingly prepared delicious food everywhere.
Some of the favorites in Kyoto are of course sushi, ramen, udon and don’t forget to try Shojin ryori, or Japanese Buddhist vegetarian food, sometimes offered up inside the temples. Here is a great link to some of great haunts.
Take in some sites, have a hike and a bike ride and top it off with a hot, steaming bowl of ramen or udon noodle soup and a few shots of sake!