Before you arrive at Days 7 & 8 of Osaka-Kyoto Itinerary, you may want some other information:
Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe Itinerary: Pre-planning
Osaka-Kyoto Itinerary: Day 1 (Arrival) and Day 2, Day Trip to Kobe
Osaka-Kyoto Itinerary Days 3 & 4: Ohara Onsen Ryokan and Sanzen-in Temple
Osaka-Kyoto Itinerary Days 5 & 6: Kinkakuji, Kyoto Imperial Palace, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
9am – Take a bus to Higashiyama District where there are countless temples. Please do NOT attempt to see them all. Just shortlist the unique temples you want to see. Be prepared to walk, wear proper sports shoes for walking.
This walking route will take about 5 hours although there is a break in between. First, after you alight, go to Kodaiji temple, which was established in 1606. The unique feature here is the rock garden.
Then walk through Ishibe Alley, just outside Kodaiji. It’s a picturesque alley, featured in many films.
Walk towards Yasaka-no-Tou pagoda (¥400, opens at 10am), which was built in 592. That’s right, there is no “1” in front from 592! While most pagodas are situated in temples, this one stands alone since the temple was burnt down. By the way, you can only go up to level 2 of the pagoda. So it may not be worth paying the admission fee. You want just want to look at it and take some photos for memory.
10am – Have breakfast at Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Chaya. It’s the first Starbucks located in a traditional Japanese house, complete with tatami mats. It took 10 years of planning to opening. Also: I know Starbucks is a global American chain but really, the food at Starbucks in Kyoto is awesomest.
10.45am -Explore Ninenzaka, the street along Starbucks, and walk towards Sannenzaka. These two streets, Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, are lined beautifully restored traditional shophouses. They are also quite commericalised, so if you want to buy any souvenirs here, go here and shop.
12pm – At the end of Sannensaka is Kiyomizu Dera which literally means “Pure Water Temple,” best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall. It was founded in 780. This is probably the most visited attraction in Kyoto so be prepared to squeeze a little.
1.30pm – Lunch. We ate at Yuba Ryori Higashiyama Yuuzu, which was an amazing experience. Highly recommended. But don’t eat too much because we will be having…
3pm – TEA! After a vigorous morning, it’s best to sit around and not tire yourselves too much. Tea is a must-do experience in Kyoto because wagashi (Japanese sweets) originated in Kyoto and the teahouses go all the way back to 1700s. This is a list of popular teahouses to choose from.
5pm – Go back to hotel and rest and enjoy the facilities.
7pm – Dinner. Check out our food recommendations.
10am – Visit Nijo Castle, built in 1603 (English tour starts at 10am and 12pm, lasting an hour, ¥1000). It’s interesting to juxtapose the architecture of Kyoto Imperial Palace (we visited it on Day 6) with Nijo Castle: one was for royalty, the other is the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). You can see the sparseness at Nijo, compared with the opulence at the Imperial Palace.
12pm – Yamazaki is my favoritest whiskey so it is a must-visit to the distillery. You have to make reservations if you want a guided tour around the premises (which is in Japanese, no English tours). Otherwise, you can walk around the museum yourself.
It’s a short 25-minute train ride from Kyoto Station to Yamazaki Distillery established in 1923. When you arrive at Oyamazaki Station, there is bus-stop there going to “Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art.” Do NOT take the bus. It goes to another place with a similar name, not the distillery.
Lunch here. Just across from Oyamazaki station, there is a lovely and cosy cafe called Cafe Tabi Tabi. You can’t miss it. The food is tasty and the service is wonderful.
After lunch, take a short 5-minute walk to the distillery. Just follow your google map.
At the distillery, after your tour and shopping at its souvenir shop, you may also taste their whiskeys. Unfortunately, unlike the Nikka distillery at Hokkaido which serves free samples, Yamazaki charges for their whiskeys.
You can purchase their whiskeys in individual shots or in a set. The shots cost as low as ¥100. I recommend the Long Matured whiskey set (¥1800), which has Yamazaki 18 years old, Hakushu 18 years old, and Hibiki 21 years old.
Since we were here, I also recommend trying the Yamazaki 25 years old (¥2900 / S$37). I know, it’s super expensive for one shot but one bottle goes for ¥900000 / S$11500 and since I will never in my life buy a bottle, I will settle for a shot.
What is different about Yamazaki whiskey is that the founder wanted a Japanese whiskey, and not a whiskey that is an imitation of Scottish whiskey. These are the notes I took:
Piercing on tongue only, not in throat or chest
Plum sweetness, smoky, spicy
More yellowish than brownish
Oily, creamy like blue cheese
No burning sensation
Tip and Side of tongue experience sweetness
Colour of red tea
Dry, sweet and smooth, not oily
No burning sensation anywhere
4pm – Return to Kyoto. Free and easy.
The next day, we will return to Osaka.
You may be interested in…
–5 Must Eat Food in Osaka and Where to Find Them
–Teuchisoba Kanei 手打ち蕎麦 かね井, Kyoto: Worst Experience in Japan
–Where to Stay in Kyoto, Japan: Hotel Vischio Kyoto Review
–Shigetsu, Kyoto: Inside Tenryuji Temple, Zen Buddhist Cuisine Is The Best Food We Ate in Kyoto
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.