Before leaving and amidst of packing to return to Portugal, we received an invitation to go to Kyoto one more time and stay at a friends’ house.
And so there I went, once more, to Kyoto, the heart of traditional Japan, taking the night bus from Sendai and arriving at Kyoto station at 6am. Meeting our friend for lunch and unpacking, allowed us to be free only for the afternoon.
The Imperial Park with both palaces on each side.
We started with the Imperial Palace, located in the Imperial Park in the heart of Kyoto. I had already visited this area last time, cycled through the park returning from Kinkaku ji and going towards the station.
Unlike the Park, The Imperial and Sento palace needed to be visited in organized tours. We were truly fortunate since our friend had already planned this for us and booked our tour reservation.
One of the main gates
The Kyoto Imperial Palace was the residency of the imperial family at a time when Kyoto was still the capital of Japan.
While you visit, you will be toured around the area, seeing great wooden and paper constructions with beautiful small architectural details and hearing how temperatures inside were kept cold in the summer and warm in the winter time.
Details of the Imperial palace
When our first tour finished we waited for the next tour of the Sento Palace. Annexed very close to the Imperial palace, this palace was built as a retirement home for one of the Japanese emperors during the 17th century, serves now as residence of the princess and prince when they visit Kyoto.
One entrance of the Sento garden
Inside, you are taken, in an organized tour, for one hour, around a very beautifully planned garden with ponds and strolling paths. It’s truly a beautiful garden.
Details of the trails of the garden
When our cultural tours finished, we went to the more chaotic part of the city to sit down for tea, coffee and eat some traditional sweets from Kyoto, a personal favourite of mine, the Yatsuhashi sweets. A rice dough triangle filled with the traditional sweet red bean paste.
Street overview from the cafe shop in the covered area of Kyoto
That day finished with an amazing hearty meal served with wine and a fluffy futon in a tatami room. An incredible experience, thank you : )
The Imperial Park is located relatively in the center of Kyoto. To get there, you can cycle, slightly obvious, you can take the metro to Imadegawa on the Karasuma line and you can take any of the many Kyoto city buses that pass near this area.
In my opinion, unless your visiting Kinkaku ji, you might as well just rent a bike for the day. Buses can be really, really, really full and in the busy hours can be stuck in traffic for quite a while.
If you cycle, be mindful of others and cycle carefully. Also make sure you are cycling in an area where its permitted.
If you take a bus, for a whole day touring Kyoto you can buy a bus day pass directly with the bus driver or in the station. It costs 500 yen, around 5 dollars, and allows you to travel within the standard fare area of Kyoto (which includes most of the touristic places).
If you can, try to buy the bus pass at the station, since drivers can ran out and are quite busy when there is a very full bus ( such as the ones that go to Kinkaku ji).
At this moment, visits of the Imperial palace are no longer subject to reservations and are free so make sure to visit. On the other hand, the Sento palace still requires a prior reservation and tours have fixed hours. Try to book in advance if you really want to visit, because tours are usually full.
What would I do differently
Of what I can remember, there is really nothing to regret here. Re-reading about these places and reliving these days in my mind, feels like a unique experience for which I am really grateful.
Next week, there is one more day in Kyoto before the ending of my trip in Japan!
I’m wondering what to write about next. I’m planning to write a little bit about reverse culture shock, which I definitely experienced, and which not many people know about.
Anyway, plenty of more Japan to come, I still have some travels to write about: Niigata, Nagasaki, Himeji, Gifu. It’s just they will have other countries in between.
Let’s keep going! Hope everyone is well, have a great week and see you soon!