Sakura Terrace the Gallery
Fred and I spent 4 nights in Kyoto. We stayed at Sakura Terrace the Gallery. It’s recently opened so everything looks new and modern. It is very close to Kyoto Station. Not as close as staying directly in one of the hotels at the station but very manageable. The room is above average with nice comfy bed. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, free mixed drink daily, onsite restaurant, laundry, and luggage delivery. We ate at the hotel restaurant twice. Their foods were very good and cheap for a classy sit-down restaurant. Fred gets to grate his own wasabi. They also have attached lounge and man-made onsen but I didn’t get to use.
We took the JR shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto. It was only 1600 yen per person (We purchased the 7-day JR passes for our 13-day stay in Japan so it wasn’t activated at the time). We dropped off our luggage at the hotel and walked around the neighborhood. It was so quiet compared to the bustling night scene we saw in Dotonburi the night before. I was getting bored honestly. Around the block from the hotel is Aeon Mall, we had “all you can eat” shabushabu here. Except it’s really all you can eat veggies and tofu, and their veggie selection is just cabbage. There is a boba shop as well though Tapioca Express quality at most.
I booked 1-Day Kyoto Tour by Sunrise Tours (16100 yen per person). This is a combination of both the morning and afternoon Kyoto tour. We had 2 tour guides. In the morning we went to Ryoanji Temple, Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), and Kyoto Imperial Palace. Lunch was provided by the touring company at a sit down restaurant near Kyoto station. The foods were excellent but portions were so small. Afterward, we meet up with a new tour guide and went to Heian Jingu Shrine, Sanjusangendo Temple, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. At times, it feel like I’m on a school field trip but I’m glad I booked these tours. Bus transportation is a huge convenience. If we’re left on our own, Fred and I probably go to one attraction and stop there. We actually went during school trips season so we saw a lot of students at these places. Kinkaku-ji Temple and Kiyomizu-dera Temple especially are packed with both tourists and students.
Kyoto Morning Tour
Ryoanji Temple is probably the best places to take autumn photos. I never made it inside the temple because I was busy taking photos of the temple grounds.
Kinkakuji Temple is hyped and there weren’t many photo opportunities. There’s only so many angle of the structure I can capture with my camera lol.
Kyoto Imperial Palace is boring as well. This one really feels like a field trip. Many parts of the palace aren’t open to the public and you can’t roam around as you like. It’s restricting.
Kyoto Afternoon Tour
Japan has two religions, Buddhism and Shintoism. Buddhist related places end with -temple, and Shinto related is –shrine. This is why you need booked tours, without the tour guide I’ll probably use both terms interchangeably lol. The first stop on the Kyoto afternoon tour was Heian Jingu Shrine.
Next stop was Sanjusangendo Temple. This place is famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy (Guan Yin in Chinese). This place is a shoe and camera-free zone. They will seize your camera if you’re caught taking photos. The flooring in this temple is rough with no support. There’s no insulation either. I can’t remember if there were modern light fixtures. The sight of the 1001 statues is pretty cool and scary at the same time.
Our last stop is Kiyomizu-dera Temple. There were over 18 tour buses there that day. It’s a beautiful place but it was too crowded. I wanted to spend more time at the shopping district too. 50 minutes of free time here isn’t enough. You can choose to stay behind but this place look too complex for public transportation so Fred and I left with our tour.