This is a question people ask me on an almost weekly basis. “I have four nights booked in Kyoto. Is this long enough?” I find this question really difficult to answer. For a number of reasons.
Firstly, I have spent around a month, all together, in Kyoto. I am about to return for just 3 days, but have another couple of weeks booked in next year. As Super Sake Boy has said…. we feel we have barely scratched the surface.
Secondly, it is our long term plan to buy a home in Uji, in Kyoto, to eventually retire to. We picture ourselves in our old age, in Japan. I always picture myself wearing hakama (traditional martial arts pants, that I think are super cool) just to give you a visual. And Super Sake Boy has a well established Japanese alias ready to go, and imagines himself farming rice and potentially learning Japanese wood joinery in his effort to find his ikigai. It is a peaceful plan to daydream and work on manifesting.
That said, any time you spend in Kyoto will be time well spent. It is a truly amazing city. It is beautiful, vibrant, historical, modern and cosmopolitan, but not crazy busy like Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tokyo, a lot. But Kyoto has something else. Something intangible. Maybe, to me, it feels like home.
I cried, inconsolably, for hours, the first time I had to leave Kyoto. I spent an hour balling my eyes out, over Skype, to my friend Cath. She was confused. How could I have become so attached to a place after only four days? I’m actually not sure. I’m not sure why it tugs on my heart, begging me to return. But it does. And it’s never far from my thoughts.
Kyoto has so much to offer. With over 1000 temples, amazing restaurants, historical precincts and excellent shopping, you will never be at a loss of what to do. The sake breweries, the funky cafes, the Nishiki market, the museums, galleries, record stores, Kyoto has something for everyone.
So, in answer to the question “how long do I need in Kyoto”…. my answer would probably be a lifetime….. I can’t wait to see Kyoto in different seasons, but I am desperate to get back in cherry blossom season. I look forward to seeing new things, but am also drawn back to old favourites. I am always surprised by it’s beauty and it’s vibrance. I love being in the throng of people around Gion. I love that my favourite market has been running monthly, for 1100 years, in the same place. It is living history. It is impossible to describe. My only advice for Kyoto is go there, and fall in love. Like I did……