Natalie is the winner of our Wagamama competition last year. The first prize was our “Essential Japan” package for two adults.  Natalie travelled for 9 days in Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto. This blog post follows the part 3, where Natalie was discovering Hakone.


When I consider the bustling Tokyo and the serene Hakone, I would estimate that Kyoto sits somewhere between the two.  Our two hour journey on the bullet train brought us into Kyoto Train Station.  The New Miyako Hotel is across the road from the station, which made travelling around the city incredibly easy.  We ventured straight out into the post-lunchtime city and walked around the Old Town.  From there, we decided to head to Fushimi Inari Taisha Temple for the famous Orange walk through the torii gates.


Fushimi Inara Shrine

Fushimi Inara Shrine


We arrived at dusk. I had grossly underestimated the size of the Temple – we had really only got our bearings there before the night fell.  The site was begging for us to return which we did the next afternoon.  Walking through the Shrine was a very exciting, moving experience.  I would estimate that it would take three hours to walk to the top of the shrine.  In fact, after almost two hours we only managed to get to the half-way mark.  However, this itself was an accomplishment, and we were rewarded with some beautiful views of Kyoto at dusk.

The New Miyako Hotel in Kyoto was wonderful.  It is a large, luxurious hotel and I really enjoyed my stay here.  There were many options for breakfast, but we opted for the full Western-style buffet breakfast each morning.  As well as the shopping centre in Kyoto train station, there is a large shopping mall near the hotel too.  The city was very easy to navigate with the information that had been supplied to us by our travel agent.

Our early morning visit to the Golden Pavillion was remarkable. The sun was shining, the Pavilion was glowing, and reflecting in the shimmering water below.  It was beautiful.

Golden Pavilion


Contuining on the Zen Pursuit, the next stop was Ryōan-ji, home of the world famous Zen Garden.  Again, the crowds at this site were big, but incredibly respectful and kind.  There were a number of students painting the Zen Garden scene with watercolours. Other people were meditating.  It was a serene escape and it was very “Kyoto”.

That afternoon, we headed off to the Bamboo Grove at Arashiyama.  This unique Bamboo Forest is a must-see, and offered some relief from the blazing sun.  It was clearly high season for cicadas when we were there – their chirping accompanied us around the forest.


Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest


The shrine here is a huge attraction for Buddhists and we saw a great number of young ladies and gentlemen in their traditional Kimono robes and wooden shoes making the pilgrimage.

The next day, we went for an early morning stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk and then continued in to the city to the renowned Nishiki Market.   The smells, the sights and the sounds were unique to me and I enjoyed slowly wandering around and taking it all in. I wandered past the “Cat Café” and spent some time thereafter bemused at the fact I could, if I wanted to, go in to a room and have a drink and play with a cat.  Where else would I find such a thing?


The Cat Cafe in Kyoto!

The Cat Cafe in Kyoto!


There is a weekly antiques market within walking distance to the New Miyako Hotel.  We visited in on our final morning in Japan and I picked up some incredible fabric and buttons.

At 6pm we were collected from our hotel and brought to Osaka airport. It was with great sadness that I boarded the plan that took me away from Japan, but after all, this holiday was only a “taste”.  I know I will be back for a second helping…


If you are interested in discovering Japan, Orient Travel has put together an Essential Japan tour, starting from only €1835 per person sharing.

Our package can be completely tailor-made to suit your needs and budget, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more information at 01-207-9650.

Alternatively you can stop by our offices located on the Dundrum Road, open from Monday – Friday 9:30am to 5.30pm.