Kyoto - Final thoughts

We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time. The Japan list of contents so far can be found here!

Welcome to Kyoto! We were all over the place in Kyoto, visiting it twice, a week apart, during our time in Japan. The places we visited in Kyoto are:

* Hiiragiya -Hiiragiya Ryokan, Maruyama Park, and Nanzen-ji Temple
* Fushimi Inari-taisha
* Nishiki Market - Nishiki Market and the Philosopher's Path
* Tsubara House - Tsubara House, Exploring Kyoto, and Gion District
* Macaques and Temples - Arashiyama, Ginkakuji, and Kiyomizudera Temple
* Odds and ends and final thoughts on Kyoto.

We stayed in Kyoto for a total of 7 days, the first two days cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom. A week later when we returned, everything was in full bloom. The flowers on the trees looked like clouds on branches. The colors were much more vibrant and the air outside had warmed up.

While it seemed that everyone in Tokyo appeared to have a job they needed to be at, Kyoto was the place everyone seemed to be enjoying their time off of work. While we saw business men wearing suits in the parks at Tokyo, we saw couples sitting on riverbanks in Kyoto. Old men fishing causally, young adults playing games with each other. People spent time to sit outside to enjoy reading, writing, and some even singing with their friends in the parks.

The best way to get around and to see it all is on bikes.
We rented bicycles from Kyoto Cycling Tour Project. They were super easy to deal with and had convenient locations. Being so pedestrian and bicycle friendly, Kyoto quickly became our favorite city in all of Japan. While Tokyo might be the biggest city and the place most people would love to visit, Kyoto was the place that we would want to live. We felt at ease riding around, with easy routes between buildings to escape traffic.

It rained a few times while we were in Kyoto but never hard or long enough to keep us locked up indoors. We were able to get to bus stops and metro stations easily to reach our destinations regardless of the weather.

7-11 and other quick stops proved useful in Kyoto. We stopped many times for drinks, snacks, and when we could find what we wanted, sushi! It was in Kyoto we found the limited edition orange coke first, which was really tasty and addicting.
When shopping we noticed they sold "corn dog" as "American dog". We did not try it out.

The parks had larger crowds in Kyoto for the time that we were there, but never so much that we regretted going. One thing important to note, while we love Kyoto, it was not free of vendors and commercialization. Going to and from parks sometimes found vendors packed side by side selling foods and trinkets, but this is the nature of most tourist areas these days.
An interesting sign we saw at one of the vendor stalls in Kyoto.

While this does cause a bit of annoyance and adds an ugly aspect to popular sites, they still kept it clean, and compared to American locations I have been in, especially those that are open to the general public we found it interesting how much time was spent on cleaning and restoration.
One of the noteworthy aspects of Japanese cuisine is the lack of fragrant aroma. While Japenese cuisine has exquisite flavors and tastes, the scents are very subdued. That was why, when leaving Maruyama Park, we were overwhelmed by the smell of Indian food and followed our noses to a small basement indian food restuarant called Maharaja. Unfortunately, we did not get any decent pictures of the food we consumed there, but it was interesting how much our sense of smell dictated our decision to dine at the location.
Gudetama an egg mascot/cartoon with crippling depression.
Kyoto at night is by far the superior experience. Great effort has gone into lighting up the city and its features in a way that lends an attractive touch without being overwhelming. Don't be afraid to go out after dark to explore the night.
While a lot of our pictures looked up to the trees or highlighted attractions, effort has to be invested to avoid cluttering pictures with unwanted background items. Vending machines exist everywhere and people gather to enjoy the sites and take pictures.
A worker lights up a cigarette in Maruyama Park.
Vending machines are common and convenient, even existing in odd locations in Kyoto. They sell a wide array of products from soda, to coffee, to ice cream, and basic snacks.
Of course, not all of Kyoto is perfect and clean, but we never felt that we could not walk around freely after dark.
It's also very interesting the effort we go through as humans to bring nature into our homes. In all of the Japanese cities we were in, the homes footprint is tiny, only taking up space that it needs for essentials, but there is always space made for flowers, small gardens, or just a little zen center to call your own.
While strolling through the backstreets of Kyoto on our first two days there we passed by a fan shop called Hakuchikudo.
Folding fans are a popular attraction for tourists, and they make a great sourvineer or gift for women of all ages, but be aware that smart business people know this, and you will find cheap paper fan products all over Japan. We made a decision to explore the rest of Japan on our trip to see if perhaps there were any other fan shops that we would find during our travels that sold products of the same quality. There was not, and when we returned to Kyoto 2 weeks later, we made sure to visit the shop and purchased a few fans for gifts.
We purchased a few fans for gifts, and then two for ourselves.
Rosewood fan set
Hime-zakura fan set

If you are considering a trip to Japan, above all locations, you should consider visiting Kyoto for a few days. Schedule near the end of your trip and save a day for no plans, and just walk around the local area. Find the nearby river and follow the riverbank for awhile. Enjoy the sights, enjoy the scenery, and enjoy the peacefulness of life.

That ends our stay in Kyoto. Next up we headed to Nara for a day!