Hopefully, when you arrive in Kyoto you aren’t too famished because I recommend saving room for some street food near Fushimi Inari, your second stop in Kyoto. First head to the Tofu-kuji temple, a beautiful Zen temple known for its autumnal colors. Take the Keihan Main Line from Kiyomizu-Gion station to the Tofukuji station.
Then take the Keihan Main Line to get to the Fushimi-Inari station and walk up the street wafting with the smells of street food all the way up to the Fushina Inari Shrine.Veggie Delite Tip: Along the way, I picked up some grilled tofu steaks soaked in soy-sauce, topped with ginger and wasabi paste. Some freshly baked matcha green tea cakes gave me the fuel to make the trek up the trail lined with a thousand tori gates up the sacred Mount Inari.
Wake up early and grab breakfast at the hipster-chic Cafe Len along with a latte. Then it’s time to head over to Arashima village. I highly recommend getting there by 8:30am to give yourself some time before the tourist rush. You can take the Hankyu line from Karasuma station to Arashiyama station. Cross the Tokgetsukyo Bridge across the Katsura River with beautiful views to enter the Arashiyama district. Walk over to the magical bamboo forest where you are nestled among tall bamboo stalks. Walk around slowly and enjoy the feeling of being transported into another world.
Next, head into the Tenryu-ji temple, one of the most impressive Zen temples set in a beautiful garden sprinkled with fall foliage. One of many UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto, this temple has a fee to enter the gardens. Lose track of time strolling around the gardens.
When you are done, walk over to Saga Tofu Ine restaurant which opens at 11a for a light meal of some fresh tofu. Note that this is not a vegetarian restaurant and most things contain fish broth so be sure to clarify to the waiters that you only want the vegetarian parts of the meal (Veggie Delite Tip).
After this, you are going to be exhausted from all the morning exploration so you will want to head back to the Airbnb to rest your legs.
Next, get ready to wander the Gion district. But before that, walk over the Nishiki market, the famous food market called the “Kitchen of Kyoto. Lined with shops selling fresh Japanese foods of all kind, it’s a lively, buzzy place to walk through. If you are vegetarian like me, you might not find much but I’ve got you covered. Once you exit the market, head over to Ippudo Nishikikouji for a casual spot that serves up vegan ramen! A bowlful of spicy, flavorful comfort food will be just what you need.
Now, you are ready to head over to Gion, crossing over the Shijo Dori (bridge). Gion is a lively area with shops and restaurants well worth spending a few hours in. Take the Shijo Dori all the way down to Marukyama Park doted with Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples. Walk through the Sanmon Gate up the stairs to the Chionin Temple to get glimpses of the setting sun.
Now it is time to experience Gion at night. Head over to the famous Hanami-Koji street from Shijo Avenue to get a glimpse of a geisha as you wander the quaint streets lined with tea houses and restaurants.
Saving the best, most atmospheric part for last, it’s time to head to Pontocho Alley, a narrow alley running parallel to the Kamogawa River. Any of the restaurants on the eastern side will have a view of the river. Pick a restaurant for a charming albeit pricey meal and wash it down with sake and beer before heading back home. It’s time to call it a night so you can head out early the next morning.
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