- Introduction: An Overdue Trip To Kyoto
- Review: JetBlue Mint Business Class A321 (MIA-LAX)
- Review: Four Seasons Los Angeles At Beverly Hills
- Review: Starlux Airlines Business Class Airbus A350 (LAX-TPE)
- Review: Starlux Airlines Lounge Taipei Airport (TPE)
- Review: Starlux Airlines Business Class Airbus A330neo (TPE-KIX)
- Review: Park Hyatt Kyoto, Japan
- Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, Japan
- Review: Four Seasons Kyoto, Japan
- Review: Shisui Nara, Marriott Luxury Collection
- Impressions From Our Trip To Kyoto, Japan
- Review: Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge Kansai Osaka Airport (KIX)
- Review: Japan Airlines Business Class Boeing 787 (KIX-LAX)
- Review: American Airlines Business Class Boeing 787 (LAX-MIA)
During our trip to Japan, we spent roughly a week in Kyoto, which we split between the Four Seasons, the Park Hyatt, and the Ritz-Carlton. This was my first trip to Kyoto in roughly a decade. To be honest, my last visit was brief and the weather wasn’t very nice, so that probably didn’t leave me with the best impression. This time around, I loved Kyoto, and I’m already looking forward to returning.
Admittedly that hardly makes me unique, as Kyoto has become such a popular tourist destination, and it’s no doubt overcrowded. But still, like many popular tourist destinations, they’re widely visited for good reason.
On the blog I heavily focus on the journey rather than the destination, and that’s just because that’s where I think I can provide the most value. There are lots of amazing destination resources out there, and I’m not trying to compete in that area. However, sometimes I like to share impressions of destinations as well, so in this post I wanted to do that for Kyoto.
In no particular order…
In this post:
I adore visiting Japan
Before I talk specifically about visiting Kyoto, I just have to say how much I enjoy spending time in Japan. Every time I land in Japan, I feel like I’m on a different planet. There’s something so nice about traveling somewhere that has little crime, and where service is consistently excellent, everything is spotless, and people are courteous to one another.
Would I ever dream of living in Japan? No, to be honest. It’s too high context of a culture for me, and I don’t love how rigid everything is. But my gosh, there’s no place I’d rather visit, and I’m just consistently in awe at how different the culture is compared to what I’m used to at home, and it’s such a breath of fresh air.
As expected, Kyoto is very crowded
Nowadays peoples’ travels are largely influenced by what they see on social media. For example, you’ll see people posing at the Fushimi Inari Shrine as if they’re the only visitor. The reality for most people, unsurprisingly, is very different.
If you go to any of the most popular attractions in Kyoto, expect that you’ll basically be swimming in a sea of people. That’s true even in non-peak season, and even during non-peak hours. For example, below is what Fushimi Inari Shrine looked like during our visit.
I felt like when we visited the most popular attractions, we were dodging (sun) umbrellas, trying to be respectful of people doing photoshoots in their rented kimonos, and were just avoiding running into people.
Of course it’s still possible to capture nice pictures, but just be realistic that your experience almost certainly won’t look like what everyone posts online.
Kyoto is the perfect blend of city & nature
What makes Kyoto such an interesting destination (and what also makes up for the crowding) is that the place gives you the best of both worlds. Among tourists, Kyoto is best known for its nature and history, as the area around Kyoto has endless temples, gardens, and more.
But beyond that nature, Kyoto is a legitimate city, with a population of around 1.5 million. That’s of course a large city by international standards, though it’s only a bit over 10% of the size of Tokyo, for example. So you can be in one part of Kyoto and feel like you’re in the middle of Tokyo, and then you can be in another part of Kyoto and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Personally I’m not a huge fan of vacationing in major cities, since to me it feels more exhausting than relaxing. Yet in Kyoto, I really felt like I was in a more rural destination, with the flexibility to also have access to a major city. Kyoto strikes a great balance in that regard, and I suspect that’s one of the things that makes the destination so popular.
Kyoto has amazing dining & hotels
With the rate at which tourism demand in Kyoto has grown, we’ve seen an unbelievable number of new luxury hotels open in Kyoto. At this point, Kyoto has to be one of the most competitive and impressive luxury hotel markets in the world, and the options keep increasing (for better or worse).
While hotel rates in Kyoto are very high, fortunately we even have lots of great points hotels. There aren’t many cities that have truly impressive options from most of the major global hotel groups. So for those of us who like visiting fun destinations and having a great hotel experience, Kyoto is tough to beat.
Then there’s the food, of course, Kyoto has an endless number of amazing restaurants, no matter what style of Japanese food you’re looking for. Japan is such an unrivaled food destination, because there aren’t many places where so much pride is taken in serving quality food. Dining in Japan isn’t just about eating, it’s an experience.
Japan is surprisingly affordable right now
In recent months, the Japanese Yen (JPY) yen has been at an all-time low, making it a great time to visit Japan. Hotels in Kyoto are outrageously priced, with the top luxury hotels often going for $2,000+ per night. However, aside from that, I found Kyoto to largely be very reasonably priced, at least when converting to US Dollars (USD).
Whether we’re talking about restaurants, or taxis, or public transportation, or entry fees for temples, I felt like most prices were surprisingly reasonable. Typically when I’ve visited Japan in the past, I was a bit taken aback by how expensive many things were, but I didn’t get that feeling this time around. I guess that’s the benefit to a currency being around one-third less valuable than the last time I visited, eh?
We had the best time in Kyoto, and I can’t believe I hadn’t visited in a decade. If you’ve never been to Japan, Kyoto is an approachable destination that has a lot to offer, from beautiful nature to a cool city. However, expect it to also be very crowded, as it has become one of the most popular global travel destinations.
I definitely want to return to Kyoto at some point, though there are a lot of other places in Japan that I’d like to visit first. I think our next destination in Japan will be Niseko, to check out a different kind of ski destination (vs. the United States and Europe).
If you’ve visited Kyoto, what was your experience like?