Kyoto: A Timeless City (December 16 to 19)

Kyoto is about 375 km west of Tokyo.

Day 1 (arrival day): December 16

We arrived in Kyoto on Sunday evening. This means that not a lot was open but it gave us an opportunity to visit some of the side streets around our hotel without many people around.

Let me tell you, wandering around the backstreets behind our hotel was like stepping back in time. Everywhere you look, you want to pull out your camera and snap countless pictures. The weather when we arrived was raining but it wasn’t overly cold. The rain provided Shyla and I a great opportunity to get some great photos which I think turned out great. Checkout all of our night one photos here.

Black and white Kyoto alleyways.
The rain provided us with a good opportunity for photos.
Kyoto alleyway in the rain.
Kyoto alleys make even amateur photographers look good.

Day 2: December 17

On our first day in Kyoto I was treated to one of Shyla’s favourite locations in Japan, Arashiyama. Arashiyama is home to monkeys, a bamboo forest, some great views.

One of the things I was looking forward to in Japan was hiking. It’s something I don’t get a lot of opportunity to do in Canada. No hiking in the vast wilderness of Canada? Ryan, surely you are f*cking crazy?!? Yes and, well… yes. However, one of the things I have already noticed about Japan is how accessible everything is by transit. You don’t need a car to get to some of the countries loveliest attractions. Good luck doing that in Canada.

Monkey Mountain

Anyways, we were off to Arashiyama and we arrived to some absolutely stunning views of the mountains. After a brief 20 minute hike up the mountain, we were greeted by some of the most rambunctious little (and big) monkeys. Some were a-holes but for the most part they were well behaved.

The beautiful Arashiyama mountain range.
The beautiful Arashiyama mountain range.
Monkeys at feeding time
Look at all these monkeys!

Shyla and I decided to feed the monkeys, sometimes insighting disputes amongst the locals (the monkeys).

Double rainbow over Kyoto city!
Double rainbow over Kyoto city!

It started to rain at one point, and we were able to see a beautiful double rainbow over the city of Kyoto. We then walked back down the mountain to a small town nearby.

We didn’t spend too much time in the town but one thing I noticed was how quickly dusk approached so we went to the nearby bamboo forest.

Bamboo Forest

This was a beautiful sight to see as you move from a simple narrow street into a forest of bamboo towering probably 3-4 stories above you. At night they were lit up with blue and white lights while the pathway was lit by beautiful lanterns.

Alleyway leading to bamboo forest
I call this bamboo alley. The alleyway quickly turns into a beautiful bamboo forest.

One highlight was the railway track running down the center of the forest, definitely a cool sight. It started to get chilly so we went back home shortly after the bamboo forest.

Pathway leading us through the bamboo forest.
Pathway leading us through the bamboo forest.

Before taking the train home, however, we saw some brilliant lights wrapped in kimono fabric which led to a dragon pond. Dipping your hand in its water is said to grant the person happiness. I’m happy now, so I guess it does work!

Dragon pond surrounded by kimono lights.
Dragon pond surrounded by kimono lights.

Checkout all of our day 2 Kyoto pictures here.

Day 3: December 18

Day 3 in Kyoto was special. We got to visit Kinkaku-ji Temple and Nijo Castle.

We got to both of these places by taking the Kyoto bus system. Shyla navigated so it was easy to get to where we were going!

Kinkaku-ji Temple

This temple was beautiful, especially in the sunlight as the whole thing was covered in gold (queue Austin Powers Gold Member voice).

Shyla and I got some really great photos here. I’m sure there is more to say about this temple but I’ll just leave you with a few on my favourite shots from this location.

Kinkaku-ji Temple and the sky
This looks like a movie poster.
Lens flare at Kinkaku-ji Temple
Look at that lens flare!
Kinkaku-ji Temple in the sunlight.
Just another shiny picture.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle was a great place to take some photos. It was also a great place for Shyla to let her inner goof show for the camera! You’ll notice that several photos she “ruined” with what I’ll call her “goofball face”. Only goofball face photos are going to make it into this post. If you want to see full photos of Kinkaku-ji Temple and Nijo Castle, please check them out here.

Shyla being a goofball
Goofball face #1, notice the subtle art of goofballiness that she showcases.
Shyla in front of a moat being a goof.
Another photo of Shyla being a freaking goof.
Another goofball face
Another goofball face.
Shyla being a goofball again
Shyla being a goofball again.

Needless to say, it was a great day visiting a 400-year-old castle. I’m glad Shyla was able to keep her shit together for at least 8 hours that day.


For dinner, we had Omurice, something Shyla has been telling me about for a while now. It’s basically an omelette with rice inside of it with various toppings. Oh yeah, there is ketchup.

Shyla had hers with tomato and avocado, while mine was eggplant and mushroom. Look at how excited Shyla and I were to have this Japanese dish!

Shyla excited for her Omurice.
Shyla excited for her Omurice.
Ryan excited for omurice!
Ryan excited for omurice!
Ryan’s omurice
Ryan’s Omurice.
Shyla’s omurice
Shyla’s Omurice.

Day 4 (departure day): December 19

On our last day in Kyoto, we did some last minute wandering around. We toured some shrines and temples. Both were really cool and I learned some interesting things about the Japanese culture, especially as it relates to praying at shrines.

People praying at a shrine near our hotel.
People praying at a shrine near our hotel.

Shyla was once again ruining photos with her goofy looking face. It’s okay though since she is a great tour guide! I’ll let it slide.

Shyla being super professional.
Shyla being super professional.

There were some great opportunities to get some truly epic photos. For a full album of those photos, check them out here.

Elephant Factory Coffee

Finally, to end our time in Kyoto, Shyla and I found our way over to a coffee shop tucked away in the backstreets of the city. Elephant Factory Coffee was featured in Simon and Martina’s Japan YouTube channel and I knew I had to visit this place myself. Shyla doesn’t like hot beverages, so when they required us each to get a drink I felt pretty bad.

The place was super interesting though. As I mentioned, it was tucked away out of view in a back alley off the main streets of Kyoto. The only thing alerting people passing by is a small sign nuzzled atop a series of other signs. Slapped against a white wall are the words “Elephant Factory Coffee” with a small wooden board indicating the shop is up a set of narrow stairs.

Elephant Factory Coffee
Elephant Factory Coffee sign is the only indication this place exists above street level.
Elephant Factory Coffee black lettering on white wall
This black on white lettering is one of the only indications that this coffee shop exists.

At the top of the stairs, however, there is no indication the shop exists. Instead, a single wooden door with no sign and no markings distinguishing it from someone’s apartment. Once you step inside, you are greeted with a cozy coffee shop manned by one person. The menus are all in Japanese until he brings you an English one because you are a foreigner.

No markings on the door to the coffee shop
No markings on the door to the coffee shop.
Stairs leading the Elephant Factory Coffee
This narrow staircase leads the Elephant Factory Coffee.

The coffee is pricey but the experience was worth it, albeit a little bit awkward. People come and go and you sit back and enjoy the coffee.

Coffee mug in front of menu
Elephant Factory Coffee was delicious albeit pricey, it was an interesting experience off the beaten path.

When we were finished we paid the bill, picked up our bags from the hotel and caught a Shinkansen to Hiroshima.

Up next: Hiroshima

I’ll post updates on Hiroshima in a few days. Until then, I’ll let Shyla rain death from above from our hotel room.

Shyla in front of our hotel window in her Death From Above hoodie
Death from above.

Photo galleries

Day 2: Kyoto

Day 3: Kyoto/Arashiyama

Kyoto Day 4 album

Day 5: Kyoto/Hiroshima


2 thoughts on “Kyoto: A Timeless City (December 16 to 19)”

  1. I dunno if I’d call them award winning! Heehee but thanks! I’m going to try and put out updates as we travel between each major prefecture. Keep your eyes peeled! 😉


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