Our final day in Kyoto ended with a half day bus tour which took us to the most popular attractions. Since we had to catch the night bus back to Tokyo, we though a bus tour would be a good idea to do on our final day as we could leave our luggage on the bus while we wandered around.
The main company that organises these tours is called Regular Bus Tours and it is located just outside Kyoto station. This tour that we applied for was conducted in Japanese. All the ones conducted in English weren’t running as it was Obon holiday week but for some reason the Japanese ones were still on. They have this tour that takes you to the top 3 sites in Kyoto in English which we wanted to do, but given the Obon holiday, we settled for a similar tour held in Japanese.
First destination was Kiyomizu–dera, which is one of the most popular temples in Kyoto. The most famous bit about this temple is the stage called “Kiyomizu-dera no butai” which is built on top of a cliff supported by 139 pillars. Apparently, no nails were used in holding these pillars together.
Just below Kiyomizu-dera there is Otawa falls, where water from the mountain flows out. These waters are meant to have healing powers, so there was a really long queue of people who wanted to wash their hands and drink some of this water.
Apart from this temple, there are other shrines like Jishu shrine, the shrine of love and matchmaking. In front of the temple at this shrine are two stones placed 18 metres apart. If you close your eyes and walk from one stone to the other your wish will come true/it will bring you luck. I managed to do this walk with my eyes closed so hopefully good things will come my way!! Hahaha!
Our next stop was Arashiyama, an area to the west of Kyoto. This is a really beautiful place, and I can imagine the cherry blossoms/autumn colours must be quite a sight here. Unfortunately, the weather on the day we visited was pretty bad. There was torrential rain on the drive there, and it rained so much that there were flood warnings.
The current of the main river in Arashiyama was very strong – even the tour guide mentioned that she hadn’t seen the water flow past so quickly. We didn’t really have a tour of the area as this was our free time to have lunch and explore.
Aside from the general scenery, Arashiyama is also famous for its bamboo groves and temples. Given that we spent some time looking (and sampling) the local sweets at the souvenir shops, we decided just to see the bamboo trees.
Before hopping back on the coach for our next destination, I wanted to get some ice cream so I tried some roasted Japanese tea flavour ice cream. I don’t know how to describe the taste – like burnt tea/coffee. It was still good ice cream 🙂
We then drove to Sanjusangendo temple, which is a Buddhist temple in the east of Kyoto. It is famous for the 1001 statues of the goddess of mercy, Kannon. They were SUPER strict on photography and said they will check your cameras after the tour to make sure you hadn’t taken any photos. So I have no photos 😦 but it is worth a visit to see all those statues!
Our final stop was Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. I was really looking forward to seeing this – a gold covered building! The disappointing thing was the weather, which sort of dumbed down the shininess of the gold leaf. The rain was so heavy and my feet felt like they were constantly submerged in water…
It was hard to get nice photos too as I couldn’t hold the camera with both hands since I needed one hand to hold my umbrella.
There were pools of water everywhere and yet it was still kinda humid. Not a nice combination. Anyway, I would love to come back and see this again when the weather is nicer!
The coach returned back to Kyoto station in the afternoon, and we spent our remaining hours inside the station as they have several shopping areas. The rain put us off exploring outside the station, but we were quite content looking around, deciding what to have as our last meal. We settled for some fried stuff – very crispy and juicy!
Before we boarded the coach, I had to do some last minute souvenir shopping. I got some of Kyoto’s famous sweets, Yatsuhashi. It’s like soft mochi that has some sort of soft filling inside, often it is red bean paste. The most popular flavours are cinnamon and matcha, but I like the peach flavour one (momo flavour). The problem with this confectionary is that it’s fresh, so you have to eat it within two weeks (or something like that) so I couldn’t buy any to take home with me next month.
Even though I enjoyed my time in Kyoto, I had already been to most of the more popular sights before. I would love to come again to try the food, and maybe spend less time in Kyoto itself and go to the more rural aras, but there are only so many temples/shrine I can see.
I’m in Hokkaido right now, so I will be doing my next few blog posts on my trip here!
Thank you for reading!