When I closed my eyes and imagined Japan, it was always images of Kyoto. I envisioned the traditional buildings, the tiny alley ways, the geishas, the cherry blossoms. I was fascinated by the world I had read about in books with tea ceremonies and traditional dances-- a world of beauty and culture. When we arrived in Kyoto I was overwhelmed. It was even better than I imagined. Every street, every shrine, every shop. I had visions of my time spend in Ubud, Bali- but this place was even less touched by the western world, which surprised me.
I loved the old world charm but the availability of anything I could need only a few streets away. I loved how we could walk anywhere and each place was worth visiting. Of all the places we visited there were two areas I loved the most- Arashiyama and the area around Fushimi Inari. These areas provided a mixture of small town and forest. While the area around the shrine was much more touristy, we decided to walk the entire mountain that made up the full shrine and the higher we went up the mountain the less people we saw.
In Arashiyama was saw a bunch of people in the bamboo forest but the monkey forest was surprisingly empty. The monkey forest was at the summit of a small mountain with fews of Kyoto and beautiful rolling hills covered in trees. As a photographer, I seek the cloudy days and foggy, misty days are even better. The day we woke up and went to Arashiyama was rainy, cloudy and misty. It was pure magic! I couldn't believe this remote and wild place was a part of Kyoto. This place really did have it all.
The last day we only had the morning to explore because we checked out of our hotel at 11am. Our hotel in Kyoto was super nice and crazy unique. It was operated through apps and email. There was no staff and even the door came to life and offered a key pad if you wiped your hand over it! It was called M's Inn Higashiyama.
The location of the hotel was also great and we could easily get to everything we wanted to see on foot, except for my two favorite spots but they were also at opposite ends of the town and required more than 30 minutes by train :)
If you are strapped for cash and can't buy a train pass to visit multiple places or you only have a few days to visit Japan, I would choose Kyoto hands down. I wish I could have spent even more time there. I guess, just like Tokyo, ill just have to go back again!