Central Kyoto: palaces, markets and shabu-shabu

Kyoto is known for being the former capital city of Japan and its numerous shrines and temples. It is only about an hours train ride from Osaka, so it’s a convenient day trip if you’re staying there. There is so much to see and do in this region. We visited over two days, but still only saw a fraction of the sites. On day 6 we visited central Kyoto. The sites we visited were Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijō Castle, Nishiki Market, and Pontocho.


The Kyoto Gyoen is a huge national garden that surrounds the Imperial Palace and Sentō Imperial Palace. We entered the garden from the Seisho-mon Gate, which is a short, relaxing walk to the Gishumon Gate, from which we started the tour of the Imperial Palace.



We did a guided tour of Kyoto Imperial Palace (see map). There are so many buildings and stories that needed to be told, so it was great to be lead through this historic site. I was surprised that the buildings we in such good condition. The guide explained how the buildings are regularly refurbished because of the natural building materials.



There were two gardens on the east side of the Imperial Palace. The Oikeniwa Garden contains a small lake and faces the buildings Kogosho and Ogakumonjo. The Gonaitei Garden is a continuation of the former to the north, containing small waterways and facing the building Otsunegoten.



For lunch, we went to the Japanese fast food chain, Mos Burger. We actually have one at home, but I this was my first experience. I got the Rice burger with Shiitake mushrooms & Lotus root and a side salad of daikon and lettuce. After I just had to have a fresh strawberry mochi from the convenience store.



Not far from the Kyoto Imperial Palace is Nijō Castle (see map). We didn’t do a guided tour for this castle, as it wasn’t a lot smaller. We enter from the entrance to the east, Higashi-Ote Gate and walked through the Ninomaru Palace, which is the secondary circle of defense of the grounds.



We then went across the bridge to Honmaru (main circle of defense) to see the Katsura Palace and Honmaru Garden. From here we could see the Plum tree garden and the Cherry tree garden. We then walk Seiryu-en Garden, where we saw Phoenix trees, which were exposed to A-Bomb from Hiroshima.



After we headed over to the Nishiki Market, which is also known as Nishiki Kitchen. They specialised in Kyoto specialties, including as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood, and sushi. So many things to try, but we needed to leave room for dinner. We did have the soybean soft serve and tofu donuts. I think they were dairy free, but I did ask them if they contained any ‘moo’. They weren’t quite sure what ‘moo’ was refering, maybe the cows make a different sound in Japan. 



For dinner, we headed over to Pontocho, which is narrow alleyway full of restaurants, specialising in can yakitori or Kyoto cuisines. We went to a small restaurant for shabu-shabuShabu-shabu, where we cooked meats, tofu and vegetables in hot broth. It was lovely and warming on such a cold night.

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