Expat Focus – A Weekend in Kyoto, Japan

A few weeks ago, Hong Kong celebrated the westerner’s equivalent of Christmas, the Chinese New Year. The New Year is a very important celebration for the Chinese. It’s a time for family, good food and a well-deserved holiday.

To escape the mayhem of shopping and numerous meals out, my partner and I decided to take a short trip away to Kyoto, Japan. We chose Japan for a numerous of reasons. Firstly, because Taiwan and Korea are the number one destinations to visit around the New Year, as they are incredibly close to Hong Kong and secondly, it’s a new place for us both to explore. Even though we both had to pay a fraction more than usual for the flight ticket, it was a trip well worth it.

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Surprisingly enough the city is the seventh largest of Japan and was previously a capital before Tokyo slotted into first place.

Even though travelers are in one of the most heavily populated cities in Japan, Kyoto still manages to make you feel you’re in a faraway destination.

The itinerary was set for three days to explore the city. Day one was dedicated to sampling as much of the local cuisine as possible. We tried Dumplings, Shrimp Tempura, Udon and the traditional Japanese Hotpot. For the evening time we explored the Gion district, one of the oldest districts of Kyoto. By night, this area is vibrant and filled with some of Kyoto’s best bars and restaurants.

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My first impressions of Kyoto ticked all of the boxes. I’m not sure if it was the brisk morning air with the light snowflakes that made this place so appealing but it really is a beautiful, beautiful city. On morning walks, I paid close attention to the impressive detail of the architecture and hidden pathways.

In the evening time, the streets are lit with the red backdrop of the suma bridge. Taking a pleasant walk through, it opened its arms and let us both capture some of the rare moments of Japan that not many of you would be able to see by day.

The second day of the trip was off to a good start. We visited one of the infamous Japanese shrines, The Fushimi Inari. Mostly remembered for featuring in the Oscar nominated film, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. It’s even more breathtaking than anticipated. The shrine stretches for 233 meters long and reaches out to an outstanding view of the city. The locals invite the tourist to wander through the forest and immerse themselves in the Japanese culture. Along the shrines path, many fox statues can be spotted. The reason being, the fox represents the Inari’s messengers and is often seen with keys in their mouths.

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The Fushimi Inari Shrine is definitely a must for any visitor of Kyoto. Situated in the mountains with plenty of forestry area, this is a perfect way to start the day before stopping off in the Fushimi Village for lunch afterwards.

In the evening, we vowed to try the nation’s favorite dish, Ramen. Nobody can leave Japan without doing so! There are many ramen restaurants scattered around the city and we found the main stretch of them above the Kyoto train station. This was one of the highlights of the trip away. With plenty of choice and a comfortable atmosphere, this was great end to the weekend trip away. And not forgetting to have a sip or two of warm Sake.

Day three had easily arrived and they do say time goes fast when you’re having fun. From the beginning to end, we had ticked off Sushi, Ramen, the Gion District and The Fushimi Inari Shrine.

For the last few hours or so we ventured out with our cameras and indulged ourselves in the city that is Kyoto.

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