Kyoto is the old capital city of Japan and is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as some of the most beautiful temples. The city of Kyoto is much more suburban than Tokyo, although still sprawling. In many ways, Kyoto and Tokyo are ying and yang. In Kyoto, instead of neon, there are quaint shops with wooden facades. Instead of pedestrians, there are cyclists who are young and old. Instead of modern roads, there are cobblestone streets surrounding the shrines. Welcome to Kyoto!
Arrival via Shinkansen
The most thrilling way to arrive in Kyoto is via the Shinkansen. This is the sleek and modern high speed bullet train that brings new meaning to the word "transportation". This train is the closest experience to traveling at light speed. The Shinkansen reaches speeds of up to 200mph and transports you from Tokyo to Kyoto in only 2 hours. The rail goes perfectly straight and passes through numerous tunnels and countryside farms until it reaches Kyoto. If the ride itself isn't awe-inspiring enough, the best part of this journey is seeing Mount Fuji from the train. It appears almost mythical in the distance, surrounded by clouds and topped with snow.
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Built in 1603, the Nijo Castle in Kyoto was the former personal residence of the Shogun Tokugawa. The exterior of the building offers interesting photo opportunities as it is adorned with gold embellishments. The building is fortified with a moat on the outer perimeter. Once inside, we had to remove our shoes to walk along the tatami mats and photography was not allowed. Each step we took on the floors created a creaking sound similar to birds chirping. At first, I thought it was due to the building being old, but I then found out that it was designed to be an ancient alarm system called a "Nightingale floor" to alert the Samurai of intruders. The interior is filled with gold murals of tigers and cherry blossoms. Along the walls are paneled secret doors, some with orange tassels that represent the areas that the Shogun's ninja bodyguards would hide and then sneak out to protect him against assassins. The folklore of castle is a reminder of Japan's fierce military past.
TheMiho Museum is a hidden gem in the mountains of Kyoto. It was designed by architect I.M Pei (Louvre Reception Hall in France) and the building houses the private collection of over 2,000 pieces of Asian and Western antiques. The museum itself offers many photo opportunities for architecture lovers and it is a great off-the-beaten path way to enjoy Kyoto's beautiful nature.
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.