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Going Fast and Slow in Kyoto

Kyoto wasn't exactly the place I thought it would be, but it didn't disappoint. The city is fast-paced but slow, modern yet has an old soul.

Getting Lost in Kyoto

I headed straight to Kyoto from Osaka's Kansai Airport, thankfully Japan is a very convenient place to travel to because there are trains that get you out of the airport ASAP. The trip out of Osaka was uneventful, but as soon as I got into Kyoto, things got a little more confusing. People were moving at a frenetic pace as I walked slowly looking for the exit for my next train.

Japan's train stations are so extensive and big, it's difficult to navigate them. I spent several minutes just to find the train I was supposed to be on. I didn't want to take a taxi because its really expensive. I was relieved when I finally found the right train. After almost four hours since arriving at Kansai Airport, I made it to Kyoto, my first stop.

Kyoto is a commercialized city with glitzy shopping areas, high-end hotels and restaurants that serve dishes from different corners of the world. However, it managed to retain a piece of its history.

The towering high-rise buildings had these narrow alleys where Japanese employees go to, to have dinner, let their hair down or simply eat dinner. These were a contradiction to the concrete jungle just outside it.

Despite the latest fashion worn by almost everyone in Kyoto, I saw several locals, both men and women, young and old, wearing kimonos.

Japanese food ain't cheap here, meals in a restaurant cost P300+++ on average, but the serving size is quite huge, think Yabu or any other Japanese restaurant in the Philippines.


I liked Kyoto because of how it preserved its culture and history; the temples have parks where one can get away from the urban sprawl and find a place for respite.

Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is one of the most popular historic structures not just in Kyoto but in Japan. It is also included in the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The temple's history dates all the way back to the 1390s, when it was bought by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

The temple was burned down by a novice monk in 1950, but was later rebuilt. The current pavilion structure dates back to 1955. The design of the Golden Pavilion incorporates different styles such as shinden, samurai and zen on each floor.

Other than the distinct architecture, the complex also has a beautiful strolling garden that integrates the outside and inside.

The garden and temple design may have followed aspects of zen, but because of its popularity, it is very difficult to find quiet time here as droves of local and foreign tourists come and go throughout the day. This is one of the most popular attractions in Kyoto.

*Entrance fee costs JPY400


Ginkaku-ji or the Temple of the Silver Pavilion has a history that dates back to the 1400s.

It was rainy and about to get dark when I made it to Ginkaku-ji, but walking in the garden and seeing the zen designs of the temple were refreshing. It is a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced lifestyle of the Japanese living in Kyoto. The many visitors didn't detract from the complex's beauty.

*Entrance fee costs JPY500


The Ryoanji Temple is a famous site because of the rock garden. The site was formerly an aristocrat's villa, but was later transformed into a zen temple in 1450 following the Miyoshinji school of Rinzai sect Buddhism.

It was more peaceful and easier to find a spot to relax and enjoy nature here compared to the two previous temples. Maybe it was just the time of day, I'm not sure, but I still enjoyed my trip to Ryoanji.

*Entrance fee costs JPY500

Kyoto is an interesting city; it gave me a glimpse of its past with its many alleys, trains and buses serving as time lapses to let everything sink in. The moments when the towering buildings and glitzy shopping centers transformed into traditional homes and small, family-owned restaurants were something I will remember. The temples and their gardens allowed locals and visitors places to think and slow down despite the frenetic pace of their lifestyles and surroundings.

*It is easy to get to the temples because many buses pass by them

Getting a Visa

Filipino visitors need a visa before entering the country. Read my experience here: Japan visa guide.

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