When I first got off the Shinkansen at the Kyoto station, I thought I might have ended up in the wrong city. The train station building itself is the second largest in Japan, being 15 stories tall. Everywhere you look you can see modern department stores, expensive shops, restaurants and dessert shops. The train station it's like a maze where I got lost on countless occasions. What better place to get lost than in a gigantic mall?
But where was the old Japan everyone was talking about? I expected a small train platform in the middle of a road dotted with wooden houses and winding streets taking me through old districts. In the midst of it all, I couldn't make any sense of how Kyoto was a cosmopolitan city with a large subway system and modern shops. But the more you look, the more you observe. Kyoto is an intriguing city with secrets up its sleeve at every corner. Look closely and you will see the old elements of zen everywhere around you. Behind the large shopping malls, there are networks of narrow streets, waiting for passers-by to marvel at, and explore the unexplored.
Of course, the old Kyoto everyone is so in awe with, can mostly be observed and experienced in Gion, as well as at the Arashiyama and the Fushimi Inari Taisha. Beyond the tourist attractions, there is a quiet, unexplored Kyoto, with a winding path taking you into the mountains, and towards the deepest forests and most forgotten temples. Needless to say, I stumbled across old Kyoto by complete coincidence, just as I stopped looking.
I spent several days in Kyoto and loved every second of it. Kyoto is the zen antidote to Tokyo's madness but despite my love for zen gardens, temples and shrines, my heart remains forever in Japan's futuristic capital. Let me take you on a journey around Kyoto and show some amazing pictures of this city, which will make you want to fly there tomorrow.
What do you think? Would you love to visit Kyoto? Tell me about your Kyoto adventures in the comments section below.