Kyoto is a beautiful city you need to experience immediately. Image via Sorasak.
In case you missed it, there’s been a quiet tourism revolution going on and Japan is at the centre of it! These days it seems like everyone you know has either just been to Japan, is on their way to Japan or is planning a holiday there.
In fact, in 2017 Japan was in the top 10 countries visited by Australians according to official stats. When considering honeymoon destinations, the land of the rising sun should definitely be on your list of options. You’ll find it’s full of intricate cities and the one that has to be on the top of your ‘must-visit’ list, is Kyoto. It’s the kind of city you hope to find that still balances a wonderful combination of old and new, temples and tea-houses, gardens and geishas. If you’re in the midst of honeymoon planning, here are a few handy tips to help sway you towards Kyoto.
Where to stay
Heads up, Japan has been cracking down on AirBnB stays, but there are a heap of hotels in the Kyoto area. If you’re looking to be in the middle of the action, the Hotel Gracery is the way to go. This hotel is located in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade area – one of Kyoto’s many shopping districts. If you’re looking for a combination of culture and comfort, I suggest booking the Kabuki Room – inspired by the traditional local form of theatre. The room is filled with all kinds of Japanese kitsch and a gorgeous cherry blossom mural throughout. It’s small (most rooms in Japan are) but the decorative interior takes your stay to the next level.
How to be romantic
Mt Inari-San is a tourist magnet and it’s easy to see why. The mountain is home to the Fushima-Inari Taisha Shrine; people visit these shrines to pay respect to the Kami (gods) and many people still make the pilgrimage to Fushimi-Inari Taisha, despite the waves of tourists.
Most tourists come to see the incredible ‘torii’ gates – thousands of them mark the trek to the summit. My suggestion? Head there in the late afternoon – about 4pm (depending on the light at time of year). At this time, you’ll start the hike with a few people around but by the time you reach the top, there will be barely anyone there. Pack some nibbles and drinks and take a seat in the lookout area. Sitting together with your special someone, in absolute peace and quiet at the top of a mountain, which was earlier packed with hundreds of people has an eerie romance to it. Sit back and relax as you gaze out over the lights of Kyoto. Fair warning, it’s 233m up steps to the summit, so it takes a couple of hours with breaks, but it’s well worth it.
Torri gates at Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine. Image via FancyCrave.com
What to eat
The food in Japan is crazy good, so really, any food recommendations should be: eat as much as you can! Kyoto is no exception. I could have listed a bunch of restaurants here, but I’ve chosen something which has a bit more of a newlywed vibe to it: e.g. it’s something you’ll absolutely love doing with your partner and as a bonus, the food is brilliant too.
Mrs Houndstooth and I, hit up the Ramen Factory, for a ramen cooking class. Learn how to make noodles from scratch, tie and fry your own meat and of course, make the all-important broth. It’s all done under the supervision of the Ramen Factory team. Fun, romantic and it includes a delicious meal and a souvenir certificate so cheesy it will have you in stitches. Perfect!
What to drink
When people think of Japanese drinks, they think of tea and saké. Both those answers are on the money, but there’s another drink you can’t go past in Kyoto – Japanese whisky! Japan’s whisky, much like the country is uber popular.
The best part about staying in Kyoto is that the distillery that started it all is just a short train ride away. The Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a must do for whisky lovers. I recommend skipping the tour and heading straight to the bar where you’ll find tasting paddles featuring whiskies that are so rare they’re pretty much impossible to find in Australia – and if you do happen to find them here, they’ll cost the earth. Definitely get behind the ‘long matured whisky set’, featuring half shots of the Yamazaki 18, the Hakushu 18 and Hibiki 21 for the price of 1800 yen (approximately $21 AUD). For the record, a bottle of Hibiki 21 goes for about $800 AUD, so it’s fair to say this is a bargain! Important: They don’t have any food at the distillery, and they don’t like outside food to be brought in, so make sure you’ve got a full stomach when you arrive!
Just for fun
If you’re looking to do things ‘just for fun’ or that are a bit random, Japan is the country for you. Kyoto’s Ninja restaurant definitely falls under this category. Yes, it’s a themed restaurant, which immediately conjures up concerns about tackiness, but the Ninja restaurant walks the line just right.
Unlike many other themed restaurants, the food was actually amazing! Prepare to go on an Indiana Jones-esque adventure when you arrive and depart the restaurant and in terms of food, I recommend the sashimi platter and the ninja star crackers. Did I mention a ninja performs magic tricks at your table while you dine? Yup, that happened.
Ms Zebra Says: I agree that SO many friends are heading over to Japan – and raving about it. Thanks Mr Houndstooth for sharing insider tips to get you around Kyoto in style!
About the author Mr Houndstooth: I am a happily married man. I enjoy a fine whisky, a new suit and swashbuckling around town with my beautiful bride. Looking back on my wedding day always makes me smile, even though it began to rain just as I said ‘I do’.