Kyoto’s Best Sakura Spots

It’s that time again. Spring is here and the air is filled with the scent of ume blossom, the pretty pink petals reminding us that sakura season is just around the corner. This year (2019), because winter was warmer than average, the cherry blossoms are expected to open earlier than average, with predictions for first…

Unknown Japan; Iya Valley

Driving into the Iya Valley (you must drive, the remoteness of the place makes public transport an almost impossible option), you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d driven onto the set of the latest Jurassic Park or King Kong film. Largely unpopulated, mountains rise from the land, their forested facades hiding many treasures. Historic minka…

Himeji; Come for the Castle, Stay for the Sake

Himeji is a city famed for its castle. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s beautiful. Maybe even Japan’s most spectacular castle. Its grand size, beauty and immaculately preserved grounds have earned it the nickname ‘white heron castle’ for its pristine exterior that mimics the elegance of a heron in flight. The castle is both a…

Kyoto by the Sea

When imagining Kyoto, beautiful blue sea, tiny fishing towns and Naval ports aren’t the first things that spring to mind. To most, Kyoto means Kyoto City; the heart of Japan’s cultural heritage and home to the most UNESCO World Heritage sites of almost any conurbation on the planet. To most, Kyoto doesn’t mean glorious seaside,…

Incredible Ise

In May, during Golden Week, I decided to explore Ise. I’d been to the area once before during my first few months in Japan to visit the newly opened Amanemu (read about that here), but I didn’t really leave the hotel to investigate the area. This time I returned with intrepid travels as my goal,…

24 Hours in Osaka

It’s a travesty that I have lived in Kyoto for over two years and, until a month ago, had never visited Osaka. Only 45 minutes by local line train or 15 minutes by Shinkansen, if you’re feeling flush. Luckily my flat sits on the Keihan line, whizzing me from Gion-Shijo to Kitahama (central Osaka) in…

Guide to Gion Part Two; Drinking, Dining, Buying

Kyoto is renowned for being the home of craftsmanship in Japan. It also has the most kaiseki cuisine per capita, which makes it the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or dip into the wealth of culinary delights on offer. Following my earlier Walking Tour route of Gion, here I’ve chosen a few of…

Kamishichiken; Kyoto’s Oldest Geiko District

The cultural heritage of Kyoto is utterly astounding, but after spending over a thousand years as the capital, this isn’t really surprising. From temples to shrines to gardens, people flock to the city to see ancient landmarks and a glimpse of an era now confined to history books. Peculiarly and often overlooked is Kamishichiken; Kyoto’s…

My Guide to Gion; A Walking Tour

Famed as being one of the most mesmerizing districts in Kyoto, Gion is an area of stunning temples, maiko meeting places and local eateries that are perfect to while away a day in the ancient capital. Kyoto’s magic lies in it’s ability to preserve the old and welcome the new. The Station Building is testament…

Where to See Plum Blossoms in Kyoto

Japan is known for its incredible seasons, particularly the spring when towns, cities and countryside are awash with colour from vibrant petals on myriad types of blossoming trees and plants. Although cherry blossoms – sakura – get all the glory, Japan’s blossom season starts in late February/ early March with the much more fragrant Japanese…

Kyoto’s Only Michelin-Starred Soba

Glowing from the natural light that streams through its front windows, Ogawa’s specialty is soba. Michelin-starred soba; a type of noodle that has been eaten in Japan for centuries. These tasty morsels are usually something that is knocked up at low-key eateries on almost every street corner across Japan, so it’s surprising to find a…

Beautiful Beniya Mukayu

A little more than two hours by train from Kyoto is the beautiful town of Kanazawa. Lying on the Sea of Japan in the Ishikawa prefecture, Kanazawa and it’s neighbouring towns have long been THE destination for native Japanese travelers. Being known as ‘Sho-Kyoto’ – that’s ‘little’ Kyoto to those of us who don’t parley…