Inspired by the number of locals on bikes, I decided to take a day to bike through the ancient capital. Despite the cloudy, un-instagrammable weather, this still turned out to be one of the best decisions of my Japan trip!
First stop- Kamo River, the perfect place to take a break from the bustling city, to sit down and people watch. After parking your bike, take a leisurely stroll along the riverbanks or simply sit down and gaze at the buildings, people, and birds across. It is best to come during sakura season when riverbanks are aligned with trees at full bloom (blame it on my school's spring break dates), or at dusk/dawn when you can see the beautiful sky and city lights meet.
Towards the east of Kamo River lies Gion, the famous geisha district filled with traditional wooden machiya merchant houses, most of which are either kaiseki restaurants, tea houses, or souvenir shops. "geishas" here nowadays are just tourists in disguise (ones in my pics are all Chinese tourists lol), and real ones come & go so elusively that it's almost impossible to spot. It's also a good place to sit down and have some oishiii matcha desserts!
Tucked within Gion & right beside the Shirakawa canal, this is hands down the most beautiful street I passed by that day. Along the river banks are a mostly of high-end restaurants in traditional buildings and sakura trees. My pictures don't do it justice at all- when the sakura trees, aka the sad bare trees in my pics, bloom, the whole street transforms into a pink and white heaven (Of course, hotels and airbnbs in this areas tend to be sold out well in advance). Whether walking along the street in your kimono, or exploring pathways tucked between traditional buildings, you will be able to truly feel and appreciate the city's beauty and serenity.
Located right next to Gion, this is perhaps the most famous Shrine in Kyoto (along with Fushimi Inari Taisha ofc). I went at a bad time when it was filled with tourists and about to rain, but somehow still made my way in and snapped some photos. At this point of my trip I was getting somewhat tired of shrines (after temple hopping almost everyday), but there is still something in this red that never fails to amaze me. Also, there are lots and lots of food stands when you first enter the shrine in case you want a bite (or two), ranging from freshly made yakisoba and taiyaki, to to-die-for Japanese soft serves.
Although this was early march when sakura season was just very barely starting (again, blame it on my school's spring break dates), hints of spring throughout the city were already beginning to pop up. Luckily I was able to capture rare sights of early sakura blooming, therefore kind of (not really) fulfilling my dream of seeing sakura in Japan. I can only imagine how beautiful the city is once all flowers are at their full bloom- definitely coming back someday!