By the third day we knew Kyoto is a big city. The rhythm is very different from Tokyo but things are more spread out and you have to walk a lot more to get to things. We made the most of it, though.
We couldn’t get any bikes from the hotel, so we walked to Eastern Kyoto as fast as we could to avoid the blazing sun. It’s much easier to keep away from the sun in Tokyo: tall buildings are more common and they provide shade and air flow that keeps you happy despite the ridiculous humidity. No such luck in Kyoto, as everything is much more human-scale smaller and usually the weather is better, meaning few clouds — the sun will eventually burn your skin.
We got to Okazaki park at 10:30 AM and to Heian shrine shortly after. Despite the generic look of the shrine from the outside, we were surprised by Heian shrine’s gardens: inconspicuous and absolutely gorgeous. The rule of thumb in Japan should always be: go in, even if it doesn’t look interesting enough. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.
The area around Konkaikomyo-ji followed. The shrine is located inside a huge park, with streets, some residential housing and the occasional Japanese cemetery. Soothing, calm and perfect for escaping the heat for a while.
We proceeded our journey northeast, following the canal, and stopped right by the Philosophical Path to have lunch, which we bought in a nearby Family Mart.
Finally, we arrived at Ginkaku-ji and it couldn’t have been better. Lots of tourists around for sure, but the gardens have a spiritual aura to them that make you block everything else out and just enjoy the moment.