Aida Zabidi
On a holiday to Japan, I initially thought long and hard about visiting Kyoto, and eventually decided that I absolutely had to squeeze it into the itinerary. It is a bit of a rush, but it can be done. 

Kyoto is one of the Japan’s prefectures and also one of the best preserved cities in Japan. It was easy enough to get to – we hopped on a bullet train with our JR pass from Ueno, and the whole journey took roughly three hours from Tokyo. As with most of Japan, public transport is amazingly easy - definitely no problems waiting for buses or trains. 

From the train station, our first stop was actually the Fushimi Inari shrine, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermillion torii gates. These gates split off into multiple paths to Mount Inari, and denote the pathways up the mountain. The torii gates are actually donated by companies and individuals, and you can find the donator’s name and date of donation inscribed behind each gate. Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and foxes are thought to be her messengers. It’s a nice walk up, and it’s free! 

 
The torii gates of Fushimi Inari

The fox masks on the temple grounds

We then took a bus to the Golden Pavilion, a zen temple set within beautiful strolling grounds. We paid about 400Y for the entrance, which allowed access to the grounds. I was a little bit disappointed initially that we weren’t allowed to actually go into the temple, but it was actually a very beautiful serene scene, with the reflection of the golden temple unto the lake, and the stroll throughout the gardens did evoke a sense of peace that made the situation worthwhile. 

Kinkaku Ji, the Golden Pavilion
Our last stop of the day was actually Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, catching a train to Saga-Arashiyama. We ran across a bike rental and decided to rent bicycles to cycle through the bamboo forest and it was amazing; almost magical how the sunlight filtered through the bamboo groves. It was absolutely lovely to leisurely cycle down the path, and right at the end you would end up in the town of Saga-arashiyama itself, with these amazing views of the mountains and the dam.
 
Cycling through the bamboo forests

The river dam and the mountains of Saga-arashiyama. Too bad it was misty!

To be frank I was a bit surprised that we managed to cover so many things in Kyoto in a day – it can be done more leisurely, but because we only had an extra day at our disposal, we tried to fit in the places that we really wanted to see in a day trip, and it was absolutely worth it!
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