Kyoto, Japan!

Friday, October 13, 2017

I'm excited to share the last of our Japan photos! More than a few from our five days in Kyoto :) We had such a wonderful time here. In fact, two of our friends are hoping to go to Japan next November, but only to Tokyo. When we found out we insisted they also go to Kyoto. It has a magical way of making you feel like you're stepping back in time. Everything is so traditional and full of history. It was kind of refreshing to get out of Tokyo (which we LOVED and does have beautiful gardens and parks we didn't have time for) and into some nature. 

We took the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto with our Japan Rail Passes (can't recommend an unlimited pass enough for however long a stay in Japan), and I spent most of the ride trying to spot Mount Fuji out the window (no luck either way, so bummed!). Brian spent it writing in his travel journal. I love that he does that so much. Given that we get into many strange situations/make many mistakes when traveling, I can't wait to read them in years to come and see what those raw emotions were. 

If you squint, you can see a frustrated B trying to find our Airbnb without an address (no street names, of course!) or WiFi. Just some photos from the host to go off of ;)

A note on our Airbnb ... it was inside a bike store. And we didn't know that when booking (we don't think we did?). It was a beautiful traditional Japanese house with a private little garden, and we'd recommend it in a heartbeat, but we didn't know you had to go through a bike rental store to get to it (and that we couldn't lock our apartment during the day because that would mean locking the entrance to the bike store, or that we'd be unlocking the bike store and walking past the cash register when we came home at night.) We thought it was the funniest thing (when we'd come downstairs for breakfast the person working the bike store would see our apartment lights turn on and say "good morning" from outside the door, ha!). One day we were going for a walk and opened the door to the apartment. An Australian family inside the bike store caught a peak. A few minutes later one of the daughters was banging on our door, and her dad told her to stop, that it was someone's hotel room. She said "It's not a hotel ... it's a bike store! Who stays in a bike store?" Us, apparently ;)

We loved our meal at this place (the fried chicken was out of this world), where I had mazesoba (ramen without soup).

Our place was really close to the ancient district of Gion, which has lots of old wooden buildings, shops with cute knick-knacks, teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants with traditional food. It's one of the only geisha districts left in Japan, so it's not uncommon to see people in traditional dress walking around!

I mentioned in my Tokyo post that I was amazed by how many women there bike busy streets with multiple children and bags. The same was true in Kyoto, and we saw lots of people pedaling with their pets in the back!

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is the dreamiest and most lush spot in all of Kyoto. You know those moments that you wish you could just teleport back to it? Especially on those days where you feel like you can't get your act together? I'd teleport back to this place every day. It was pure serenity (despite the hundreds of tour groups, I wish we had gone earlier in the day). It's so beautiful and peaceful.

The Monkey Park Iwatayama was one of the coolest experiences of our lives, we were so giddy! We hiked from the bamboo forest to a park full of monkeys and a beautiful view of the city. We fed the monkeys inside the feeding house and could have spent the whole day chasing them around the grounds.

I was such a tourist the entire trip, but I couldn't get over how beautiful everything was, everywhere. Even a ticket into a shrine felt special. I essentially took a photo of a receipt here, but it looks so nice!

Going into Kyoto we were most excited to check out the Kinkaku-ji Temple — the Golden Pavilion.  It was built and gold plated in 1398, but it's in such pristine condition! It's the most popular attraction in Kyoto, and it was pouring when we were there, so I wish we had gone earlier or on a clearer day because it was a bit chaotic, but it was breathtaking nonetheless.

Also, hilarious story here. The area around the temple was packed with people and their umbrellas, and a Japanese woman near us was trying to take a photo of her five children. B was in the picture, so I asked him to move a bit, and he turned around to apologize to the lady. Noticing she was trying to take a photo of her family, I asked her if she wanted to be in it. She didn't speak English, but she gestured that she wanted B and I in the pic with her kids! We were so confused! But we did it (somewhere in the world there are at least five photos of us with five Japanese kids, me and them throwing up peace signs, Brian looking extremely confused)! Turns out she (and her kids) were just super into Brian and his ginger beard! It happened more than once after this — elementary school girls at another shrine were whispering about Brian, pointing and giggling, as if some celebrity was walking by. And one night, at an intersection, B and I were chatting at the stoplight and he casually kissed my forehead. Some school girls on a bus saw it as the bus was turning and went NUTS. They were banging on the window asking him to do it again and making hearts with their hands at us. It was such a casual thing and they couldn't get enough! It was so funny.

Golden-speckled matcha ice cream at the Golden Pavilion, naturally.

That night we came home soaking wet and exhausted, we didn't have it in us to go out for dinner, so we ordered Domino's and bought some booze from 7-Eleven :) I think the delivery man was confused as to why he was delivering pizza to a bike shop after hours, haha!

We spent a morning at Nishiki Market (which is 400 years old!!!) browsing lots of foods we didn't recognize and buying sweet treats. Everything there was so unique and fresh, we found ourselves back a few days later for souvenirs.

We went on a walking tour (by ourselves) one day and were so exhausted and shrine-ed out by the end. It was really fun, but we kept joking that it was B's walking tour, which he wasn't getting anything for but was stuck with one whiny (nonpaying) customer. It was just so hot! And there were so many people!

A quick break at Yasaka Shrine for crab on a stick! I don't look thrilled with it, but it was delicious ;)

One of the stops was Kiyomizudera Temple, which has a gorgeous hillside backdrop and is the most visited temple in Kyoto (it was built in the 8th century, like, WHAT?!). We ran into a man doing a beautiful drawing with a ballpoint pen, but he was too shy to be in the photo ;)

Lots and lots of people and stores (with yummy samples ;) in the Higashiyama district.

By the time we got to Kodaiji Temple we were so tired we collapsed at the entrance and chugged one of these. And then got in trouble for being so barbaric at a place of worship.

So many great meals in Kyoto, but the seafood omelet and noodles we had here were so memorable. In Iranian culture you often sit on the floor to eat, so this came naturally to me, but B was struggling at this place (which didn't have any chairs, you sat on the floor by a personal hot stove) ;) On the other hand, by this point chopsticks were coming really naturally to both of us!

The benefits of staying inside a bike store — borrowing two for an afternoon spin around the neighborhood!

We learned from our bamboo forest mistake and went to the Fushimi Inari Shrine early in the morning before it got super packed. There are 10,000 torri gates at the shrine  — a tunnel of red that seems to go on forever! My friend Jessica had warned me that it was a hike to the top, but I absentmindedly wore a dress and Converse and regretted it during the three hour hike! Still, it was so beautiful and serene.

We took the train to Nara Park later that day (about an hour from Kyoto), and it was like a fairy tale! There were hundreds of free roaming deer around the city, and they bow when you present them with food! It was wild. They even cross the street — they'd wait for the light to change and then go on their own! I was a bit scared to feed them (or a lot scared, whatever) but finally did before we left ;)

We couldn't leave Japan without trying tonkatsu (deep fried breaded pork cutlet). We decided on this restaurant (thank goodness we had a pocket WiFi in both cities to search while we were out!) but there was a long line, and with so many restaurants around it, we weren't sure if we should stay because we were starving. B found us donuts while we waited, and it was so, so worth the wait. It was absolutely delicious, and if I had to bring one Kyoto meal back with me it'd be this one, hands down.

Everything is just so cute. So much kawaii!

I mentioned earlier that Japan felt so safe, and in Kyoto we saw some extra measures. There were women only train cars during rush hour as a way to prevent sexual harassment. Bravo, Japan!

After reading amazing things about Arabica Coffee, we figured we had to try it. We stood in line for such a long time, and everyone was taking absurd Instagram photos with their drinks once they got them. We took this one as a joke, but I think Brian looks like a total stud in it! I can't stop staring at it <3

You can drink anywhere in Japan (it's not uncommon to see someone walking down the street with a beer; the vending machines sell them), and the bottles are just so cute. I loved the design of this strawberry sangria can, which tasted absolutely terrible, ha!

Our apartment had two Japanese platform beds. Weeks later, we're still talking about them! They were so, so comfortable, and we surprisingly didn't mind the separation! I tend to toss and turn, and B's a light sleeper. Also, even in the middle of summer I use our down comforter, B never wants more than a sheet. No compromises needed here!

One last gyoza run in Tokyo before heading home.

It was an amazing, amazing trip. I can't recommend going to Japan enough. It was a dream I didn't think would come true this soon, and I'm so grateful to have experienced it. I can't wait to go back <3

P.S. Our Tokyo photos in case you missed them!


  1. Your Japan posts are making me so homesick! I cannot wait to take John to Japan some day. I'm glad you loved it so much. When I lived there my best friends were both blonde, and I routinely was the photographer while Japanese people asked to have their picture taken with them. It happened almost every time we left the military base we lived on.

    1. I'm so, so jealous that you lived there. It really is an amazing place and so different from the States, I've never experienced anything like it. I'm also glad I'm not the only one that experienced being chopped liver ;)


Want to get in touch with me immediately? Email me: