Kyoto has always been on my top to go list. This time, after 6 days in Hokkaido with my family, I traveled to Kyoto by myself. First night I arrived pretty late so I stayed in a “capsule hotel”, First Cabin Kansai Airport, in the airport. And the next morning, I got on the JR train and rode all the way to Kyoto.

Stay in Hotel M’s Est Kyoto Station South

I had to take the earliest train on the last day to Kansai Airport to catch the flight, so I picked a hotel which was in walking distance from Kyoto Station. [Update: Garnet Hotel (it changed the name to Hotel M’s Est Kyoto Station South) was a service apartment, but now it looks more like a hotel room.] 

Except a double bed in the room, there’s also a small living room and a desk, along with an equipped kitchen and bathroom. It provides a washer, fridge, and daily essentials. The space made me feel so comfy after staying in the capsule hotel with almost no space.

The front desk person was very nice as well. They let me check in right away when I arrived. It’s not a fancy hotel but feels like home. I almost didn’t want to leave the room after I got in.

It was the room when I stayed there but it doesn’t look the same now.

Nijo – Very Kyoto

I came to Nijo looking to have lunch at a cute cafe called “Shinrin Shokudo” (Forest Cafe), yet it was closed on that day. It was a long walk from the JR station though. There were another group of locals who also failed to dine there. But I was glad I took a shot. Nijo feels like a residential area, quiet and neat, very Kyoto. I was the only tourist walking in the area. Hope I get to try this restaurant next time I visit.

The restaurant looks so cute. And Nijo.

Gion Shirakawa & Hanamikoji

I decided to go to Gion with my empty stomach, walked in a lovely little shop. It turned out to a bookshop with restaurant. The owner/chef was an elegant Japanese lady. I ordered egg over rice, and watched her make the dish step by step properly. There were also Japanese ladies in kimono and female students coming in for some good reads. The shop has a cute name “Hohoho-za”.

The bookshop with cafe – “Hohoho-za”

Gion was beautiful in winder. It’s not the cherry blossom season but there were plum blossoms. Japanese and western architectures shape this area into its beautiful scenes. I started to walk between lanes. There were women in kimono, charming Japanese restaurants facing river, some foreign tourists and some restaurants workers delivering supplies. It felt like these places were not awake yet, not until night time. It was very quiet and good for a walk.

Note: Since October 25, 2019, photography is not allowed in Hanamikoji on private road. Fine up to 10,000 Japanese yen. 

Gion in Kyoto

Ran into Yayoi Kusama Exhibition

I ran into this Yayoi Kusama Exhibition unexpectedly. The exhibit was taken place in Forever Contemporary Art Museum in a traditional Japanese building. Unfortunately, it’s permanently closed. People had to take off shoes when going into the building. It had many and diverse artworks by Kusama in different periods of time. I really liked the curator’s arrangement. Different works are in different rooms/spaces. There were several interactive works. Some can be photographed, while some can’t. The curator perfectly match the arts with the environment. There was this huge and signature pumpkin in front of a traditional Kyoto building, which looked so cool!

The Yayoi Kusama Exhibition in Forever Contemporary Art Museum
I walked for a long time, and passed by Yasaka Shrine, and Nishiki Market. Those tour groups and shopping crowds made it not as attractive as the Gion area.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove & %Arabica

The next morning, I woke up early to arrive at Arashiyama Bamboo Grove before 9am to avoid tour groups From Saga-Arashiyama JR Station to Bamboo grove took about 8 minutes walk. I liked this route a lot. Not because some special scenes but to enjoy local’s daily life. You could see Japanese moms ride bicycles and send their kids to kindergarten, trains passing py, and elders taking care of their gardens.

When I arrived at the bamboo grove, I didn’t see many people, so I could hear the wind, and bamboo rustling sound. It surely was not the bamboo making it stunning and famous but the atmosphere. So it’s very important to get here early enough to beat the crowd. Around 9am, some loud Chinese tourists started to interrupt the peacefulness. I tried to ignore them and walked toward another path.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
This crane wandered around this famous restaurant.
Take a boat on Katsura River
Arashiyama and Katsura River 

There’s this popular coffee shop by the river called %arabica. I saw more people here than in the grove, mostly Chinese and Korean. It’s quite interesting. The coffee was so good that I had to visit another branch when I went to Hong Kong. It’s the world’s top three on my list, so even though the price was not low, still lots of people waiting in line to taste the coffee .

Big crowd outside, good coffee, beautiful view

For lunch, I had the authentic raw wagyu over rice and tofu soup. You could tell this restaurant is for tourists, fancy and expensive. The food was pretty good but I didn’t like the vibe.

Eat, Drink, Shop in Kyoto

I love all the Japanese food in general. During this short trip, I had sushi, stir-fry noodles, visited some cute coffee shop, and found an earring brand called Plying Accessory by a local artist. 

Kurasu Kyoto
Stir fry noodles
Raw Wagyu beef over rice and soup tofu
Homemade breakfast
Kanazawa Maimon Sushi

I stayed in Kyoto two full days and two nights which was not enough at all. I hope next time I could go there and stay longer to ride the bike and enjoy the city more.