Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, Japan

Hotels in Kyoto, Japan

At first glance, Kyoto is not that much different from other Japanese mega-cities: to-the-minute Shinkansen, bustling shopping corridors, soaring towers and giant headquarters of well-known global brands like Nintendo, Kyocera and OMRON, and even fashionistas who keep pace with trends in Paris catwalks. But beneath the trappings of 21st century Kyoto lies a much older soul – a soul that goes back more than a thousand years when it was the capital of ancient Japan.

Where to Stay in Kyoto

Experience Imperial Japan

If your idea of traditional Japan comes from ‘Memoirs of a Geisha,’ you are not really that far off the mark. After all, geishas or adult female entertainers-companions are as much a part of Kyoto’s modern life as they were in the past. Working geishas – and not just costume-playing girls in colorful silk kimono – can still be glimpsed in Pontocho, Arashiyama, and the traditional “geiko” quarters in Gion. The latter district is also well-known for budget accommodation in Kyoto called “machiya” since it grew around providing rooms for pilgrims to the Yasaka Shrine. You can find where to stay in Kyoto by booking online for great deals or the best hotel in Kyoto, Japan.

There are other traditional places to stay in Kyoto called ‘ryokan.’ These are Japanese inns that once lined the highways to serve travelers in the Edo era. By staying in a cheap accommodation in Kyoto like the barebones type called “minshuku” or the temple-run “shukubo,” you not only save on budget but also experience first-hand the ancient Japanese way of life. Fully immerse in the experience by visiting a communal “sento,” a hot and steamy public bath where getting starkers – often with total strangers – is the rule not the exception.

Backpacker hostels in Kyoto can also be found shoehorned among the mid-range to high-end ‘ryokan’ in Shimogyo and Higashiyama districts, although cheap hotels in Kyoto are concentrated in the northern part of the city where the postcard-perfect Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji can be found.

Hotels in Kyoto Japan

Cherry Blossoms and Historic Sites

Beyond the seductive nape make-up of geishas, Kyoto also tantalizes with an immense collection of palaces, shrines, temples and other structures that date back to the 8th century – and thankfully spared from the devastation of WWII. The collection is staggering not just in their designs but also in their number – Kyoto has more than 2,000 temples and shrines that make up 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites! So if your idea of a vacation is getting pampered in the best hotels in Kyoto, Japan – which are concentrated on both sides of the Kamogawa River – and slipping into a Zen moment in a carefully raked and pebbled garden in the grounds of an imperial villa, Katsura and Shugaku-in are where you can live the fantasy.

Kyoto is more than just the storehouse of Japan’s traditions. It may not compare with Osaka as the “kitchen of Japan,” but it is a vegetarian mecca. Dig into a bowl of “obanzai” and you’ll understand why Kyoto is a gustatory destination not to be missed despite its lack of access to sea food.

“Manga” is not Nihongo for mango, but if you are into any Japanese comics, the Kyoto International Manga Museum will certainly delight.

Top off your Kyoto visit with a cherry (tree) on top. Time your travel between the spring months of late March to early May when the cherry boughs are heavily laden with delicate “sakura” petals. Hop on a Biwako Canal cruise or walk the famous Philosopher’s Path and witness the dramatic arrival of spring as A.E. Housman’s “the loveliest of trees” puts on a flamboyant show.