Blog Archives

Damage to Kyoto’s Hiking Trails from Typhoon Jebi

On my recent visit to Japan (researching my new website Rugby Guide Japan for the Rugby World Cup) I spent a day in Kyoto doing a couple of hikes so I could update the crappy photography on those pages (namely, the Shogunzuka and Kami Daigo hikes).

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The Gion Festival

Gion Festival float preparing to turn at Shijo-Kawaramachi

The Gion Matsuri is foremost among the 3 great matsuri (festivals) of Kyoto (the others are the Aoi Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri), as well as being recognised as one of the 3 great festivals of Japan (along with Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri and Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri).

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An Ode to the Crows of Japan

Crow at Osorezan

One time while living in Kyoto… “I went for a midnight stroll around Mt Inari, the red gates picked out against the snow, and with the sounds of the city muffled to nothingness, the night deathly quiet and utterly still save for the flakes tumbling silently down,

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Hozukyo Station

A train stopped at Hozukyo Station

From this distance the train appears to be suspended in the air across the valley, high above the river and motionless with its lights standing out like beacons against the backdrop of brooding forest in the deepening gloom. The tinny sounds of station announcements and departure chimes waft over on the breeze,

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Which Shrines & Temples Should You Visit in Kyoto?

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari

Kyoto has so many shrines & temples, where do you even start?

There’s no way you can see them all in a short visit (I haven’t come close even after many visits and living there for over a year), and if you tried you’d soon find yourself suffering from a bad case of temple fatigue.

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The Best Places to See the Autumn Colours in Kyoto

Seeing the spring cherry blossoms in Kyoto is on many a bucket list, but an equally awesome time to visit the city is during the autumn colours (the Japanese word is koyo, 紅葉, lit. red leaves). The cherry trees go first, starting in mid-October, and by November the hillsides are mottled with varying shades and colours;

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Fushimi Inari to Tofukuji Hike

When visiting the incredible Fushimi Inari shrine in southern Kyoto for the first time, there are too many routes to check them all out; most visitors simply follow part or all of the main trail up, and perhaps the loop trail around the summit of the mountain. And if that’s what you do,

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Fushimi Inari: Complete Guide

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari is hands down my favourite place in Kyoto, and my favourite place in Japan that isn’t a ski resort! When I first lived in Kyoto, my apartment was between Fushimi Inari and Tofukuji Temple, near one of the back routes up Mt Inari – and what a back garden Fushimi Inari makes.

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Drunk Sleeping on the Train in Japan – and Getting Stranded in the Wrong Prefecture!

The cool air wafting across my face, combined with the train’s extended lack of motion, coaxed me out of my slumber.

“Shit,” I thought, “where the hell am I?”

To which the answer was: I was drunk and jet-lagged on an empty train in the Japanese countryside,

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Kyoto City Walk: Tetsugaku-no-michi (The Philosopher’s Path), Keage Incline, Nanzenji and the Silver Temple, and Mt Daimonji

Tetsugaku-no-michi during cherry blossom season

Tetsugaku-no-michi, the Philosopher’s Path, is a pretty 2km path alongside a canal in northeast Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. It’s named for the early-20th Century philosopher Kitaro Nishida, who used to stroll along it in quiet contemplation on his way to work at Kyoto University.

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Higashiyama and Gion Walking Tour

So I was just answering a question by another user over on the Japan Guide forum (which btw is a great place to ask if you’re planning a trip to Japan and have some questions), and decided I’d make a Gion walking tour map for her.

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The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Should you be fortunate enough to be in Japan in early April, here are my top 6 places to see the sakura (cherry blossoms) in Kyoto. This was supposed to be a top-5 list (in this age of top-5 clickbait), but I couldn’t leave any one of these out so it’s a top 6 instead!

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Mono-no-aware: the transience of things

The great weeping cherry tree in th middle of Maruyama Park

It finally hit me in Maruyama Park, when I saw once again the great weeping cherry tree. The last time I’d seen it, it had been in glorious full bloom, the petals cascading down in an explosion of life greeting the spring; now, on a bitter winter’s afternoon the branches were bare,

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