Whereas five minutes in Tokyo feels like leaping 200 years into the future, a visit to Kyoto provides you with a glimpse of what feudal Japan may have been like. It was the country's capital from 794 to 1868 and remains today an important centre for the preservation of traditional Japanese culture. This truly is a wonderful place to visit when on holidays in Japan!
The area around the train station is not particularly pleasant, but you absolutely must not allow these first impressions to put you off. Hire a bicycle (around ¥1,000 per day), get yourself a map (it is easy to work out where you are as the city is laid out like a grid ), and you will soon be enjoying yourself.
Make a stop at Nishiki Market to explore the local traditional food in all its astonishing variety, then head off to enjoy some in the gardens of the Imperial Palace, which is a marvellous place for picnics (the palace itself is interesting, though not an absolute must-see). After this, hop back aboard your bike ready to begin the trickiest part of the ride: the climb up to Kiyomizu-dera. As popular with tourists as this superb temple may be, it is nevertheless one of the essential places to see. The highlight of the tour is the huge terrace that looks out over the mountainside, with its supporting framework made up of hundreds of wooden beams and struts. The views of the sunset from this suspended platform will leave you with unforgettable memories.
Make the most of the peace and tranquillity of Maruyama Park and its carp pond and rest and recharge your batteries. After visiting Ginkaku-ji ("Temple of the Silver Pavilion") and Kinkaku-ji ("Temple of the Golden Pavilion") – two very soberly designed former shogun houses that have now been converted into temples – take some time to go for a stroll around the Zen gardens of Nanzen-ji and Daitoku-ji before finishing off with an open-air bath at the Funaoka Onsen.