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Japan: Your Vacation Guide in Kyoto

Monday, May 29, 2017
Japan: Your Vacation Guide in KyotoLike1

Japan has always been on my bucket list. I think it is on almost everyone I meet. It’s one of those places that takes you on mystical journey to another world. Actually, it is exactly like that and here’s is your vacation guide in Kyoto.

No exaggerations. 

I fell in love with Kyoto because of that energy and feeling. Transported into another time. Looking around me on the streets of GION, I can almost see everyone’s face with awe and satisfaction that they have also ticked that off their list.

The smell of woodsmoke, the drift of incense; a procession of monks in black-and-gold robes and the silence and stillness from the crowd as a geisha pass them by.

Kyoto cannot be done in just one trip. It’s a start though. It’s a place you need to dig deep into its’ roots and understand its’ history and culture. 

Then there is the food…But that’s for another post. For now, here is a guide to Kyoto when you are planning your vacation to Kyoto, Japan.

TOKYO TO KYOTO

Trains are the best way to get around Japan moreover the bullet train that we took from Tokyo to Japan. Japan’s high speed bullet trains, also known as Shinkansen trains, offer visitors an experience like no other with speeds reaching up to 320 km/hr! The main Shinkansen lines with bullet trains include Tokaido, Sanyo, Tohoku, Joetsu, Nagano and Kyushu. The 2 shinkansen terminals in Tokyo are at “Tokyo” and “Shinagawa” stations. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach Kyoto.

Here is an excellent guide on the bullet train and inside information.

Learn more
SLEEP

Stay at The Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto

As a first time visitor to Kyoto and a hotel lover (junkie), The Ritz – Carlton in Kyoto is a property that has to be on your bucket list to stay. It was built on the banks of the Kamagawa River with views of the Higashiyama mountains in the East and minutes away from Kyoto’s popular downtown and 15 minutes away from Kyoto Station and a bike or walk ride away from Gion. We checked into our room facing the Kamogawa river and from the moment you step into the room, you are in the presence of tranquility. The hotel organizes tours and excursions and even a private shrine viewing with sunrise breakfast with monks. The dining at The Ritz-Carlton is nothing shy from exquisite such as Mizuki, a Japanese themed restaurant and the Italian La Locanda. Delicacies with the Pierre Herme boutique by the lobby every time you pass by, you would stop and admire the selection of Macaroons and signature cakes. The most impressive dining of them all was breakfast. There are three types of rooms here: Deluxe, Deluxe Garden, and Luxury; and three types of suites: Garden, Garden Terrace, and Garden Terrace Tatami.

The average room price ranges from ¥63,000/$532 US for a Deluxe City View room with one King bed to ¥268,000/$2,262 US for a top-floor suite with a private balcony and mountain view.

Highly recommended and a walk, cycle, taxi away from the center.

BOOK HERE
THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO

Visit Gion

Take a walk from The Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto to Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. Gion is one of my favorite places in Kyoto with the traditional wooden buildings and the historic district is the most popular place for seeing Geisha especially at around 5pm where the Geisha starts to head out. Please make sure you respect the laws and don’t get up in their faces and respect their presence as she walks by. Always take photos from the side or back, but leave their path open.

Kimono Experience 

The Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto offers the Kimono Experience. You are brought into a room filled with colorful material and Kimonos for you to choose from, with a hair stylist and a make up artist and for the next 15 minutes, you are being pampered and taken care of by professionals. It’s an experience you cannot miss out on and a chance to be drawn into the culture by local attire. 

Bamboo Forest 

The Japanese have a long history with bamboo, in myths and legends, metaphorically linking a man’s strength with this plant. The Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama paths which are over 500 meters long, set between Tenryuji temple and Nonomiya Shrine. You can either walk along the forest by foot, cycle or by rickshaw. You can find the rickshaw almost at every corner and they take you to great secret spots!

Japanese Tea Ceremony 

For over 1,000 years, Japanese drank tea and up to the 16th century did they start to take it seriously. Kyoto remains the center of the Japanese tea ceremony world (and tea growing world) and a popular place called Camellia is known to be one of the best amongst many. The Japanese Tea Ceremony It is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea.

Fushimi Inari Shrine 

On my bucket list for the longest time! Despite not hiking to the very top (lack of time), you should make sure you do! The hike to the summit of 233m Mt. Inari-san and the pilgrimage circle around the shrines near the top is one of the most interesting short walks around Kyoto. It’s also the best way to see all of Fushima-Inari Taisha Shrine. One of the most memorable moments in Kyoto and one of the most beautiful shrines.

Bike around Kyoto 

Everyone highly recommends and insist on biking around Kyoto as the best way to explore the beautiful gems. It is one of the world’s greatest bike cities and you will find a bike to rent around every corner. Remember that people drive on the left there and so should you on a bike. You can park your bike in many bike stations parking and take a walk after that. One easy route I found online is Kyoto Station to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens via the Kamo-gawa River and will take you about 2 hours.

Visit Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) 

Kyoto’s most iconic sight. We made sure we went there on a weekday very early morning. Wake up at 6am to catch the sunrise otherwise it would be packed with tourist.

Walk the Philosopher’s walk

Cath the Sakura (cherry blossoms) by walking through the philosopher’s walk. Its name comes from the Japanese philosopher of the first half of the ‘the 900th Kitaro Nishida, who taught for several years at the University of Kyoto, and it is said he used to walk along this street during his moments of reflection.

WORDS TO GET YOU BY

Sumimasen – Excuse me

Thank you – Arigato gozaimasu

You’re welcome – Do itashimashite

Goodbye – Sayonara

Doko – Where?

Hai – Means I’m satisfied ( sometimes could mean yes)

Wakarimasen – I don’t understand

Ganbaru – Ill do my best

Oyasumi Nasaii – Goodnight

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Travel Junkie Diary

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  • How far would you risk to get to where you want to go? 
KYOTO, JAPAN: Each of the famous torii shrine gates has been donated by an individual or a Japanese business in the hope of receiving good luck and fortune. The name of the donor is inscribed in black ink on the back of each gate.
  • Today I met someone who didn’t know her self worth and it left me with a heavy heart. She admitted she wished for a lot of things and dreamed of accomplishing all her NY resolutions. 
It reminded me of a story I read how we tend to create a big gap between expectations and reality and we cannot see it. How young women daydream for a perfect life and compare themselves with stuff such as ‘body goals’ or ‘couple goals’ rather be known for their accomplishments and how smart one can be. 
It made me realize how much we always have to remember to be kind to ourselves and practice love. It’s an easy thing to ‘be yourself’ but quite another thing to know who you truly are. 
I hope you stop counting your mistakes and stop torturing yourself with regret. I hope you love so strong, where you will always find the courage to say the things you wanted to say. I hope you never ever have to compare yourself to anyone but keep growing into the strong, smart and beautiful woman you are. 💫
  • This isn’t the ‘perfect instagram picture’ but I was never one to post for the number of ‘likes’.
Every picture I post on instagram is because it has a story behind it, and... an unforgettable memory. I didn’t even realize @dennisstever was taking a photo of me, and, to be honest, I think it might have been a fluke, because, if you were on that zodiac with us, you would understand how maintaining our balance was our first priority, otherwise it would have been be a dip in the freezing arctic waters. 
We anchored our sailboat in the middle of nowhere, they call it the arctic wilderness, miles away from tromso’s port. We took the zodiac to reach an uninhabited island and all I could remember, was the water level at my boots, and I was holding on to 3 camera bags and equipments and remember asking Dennis to repeatedly say “If MICHELLE falls off, save her cameras first” 😂
I’ve asked him so many times to acknowledge the fact that I’ve given him full permission to save my equipment first before anything else, and it just makes me laugh so hard on how far I am willing to go to save my gear. 
This photo reminds me of life. The adrenaline rush, the subzero temperature winds at the break of dawn, the unknown, the love, the risks we take, the crazy decisions we make in life and for our passion, in my case, it’s my love for photography. 
Can’t wait to return in two weeks on a @travelwithtjd 💫
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Can you guess where in Portugal this was taken 2 years ago?
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  • Truth: A lot of you question how I have things figured out... it’s far from the truth. I promise. 
The truth is, I take risks in the things I believe in, personally and my business life... and learned not to try and overthink when making the decision, because I remind myself how hard I worked for my career and passion to come together. 
I take risks not because I’m brave, but because I really believe that it could be SO good when it works out, or when a project I pitched for succeeds... I look back and realize how far I have come and remember thinking that things were such a mess I would never recover. 
I have never led an ‘ordinary life’ nor a life that would suit everyone maybe...but that is the only life I love despite the sleepless nights working and my heart racing all the time. “That’s the sleepless life of an entrepreneur” they say. 
I am determined to be the best of what I only believe I can be, even when I may lack in other things or even when I fall... But my life is about breaking my own limits and not let the outside noise affect my judgments. That’s how I make it through... 💕
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When I finally thought I had the settings set on and the camera hooked properly, I ran down the stairs, out the backdoor, into the front door of the pool deck and sat there with my remote control. The sun’s light has increased slightly then and my settings were all wrong again 🤦🏼‍♀️, if you were my Neighbour, you would see a crazy lady, with her hat flying away, running up and down the roof top. 
Luckily, my remote’s connection to my camera and the light was finally set and I took the shot. Then I just sat there. Watching the sky turning from pink, to orange to clear blue. 
Only then, I realized my camera was still hanging ever so lightly... so, pulled myself together and rushed back on the rooftop. 😊 That’s the story 🌴
  • I worked out what would make me happy, and I worked out what I wanted to do, and I trained myself to do the job that would make those two things happen. ‘You make it sound so simple...’ Everyone said 
It is simple...The thing is, it's also a lot of hard work. And people don't want to put in a lot of work. But I didn't get here simply by wishing for it.
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Those connected are bound no matter of time, place or circumstance.
The red string of fate is derived from an ancient East Asian belief. According to this myth, the Gods tie a red string around the ankles of those that are destined to meet each other or help each other in a certain way.
And so, no matter how near or far you are from the person, the thread remains. 
There will be times when mentally or physically, you feel distant from the person, but that doesn’t affect the thread that binds you two together. 
If you feel that with a lover, friend, or someone you just met... take a minute to remember what you just read and always be kind to one another. 💫