Jeff's Travel Guide @ Kyoto

Hello! My name is Jeff Berglund. I've been living in Japan since 1969, when I came as a 20-year-old student to learn Japanese language, Japanese culture, and Japanese religion. My nearly a half-century has been spent in the "capital of capitals" (京の都), Kyoto, Japan. I love Japan, and I especially love Kyoto! I am now a professor of Intercultural communication at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, a member of the Board of Regents of one of my alma maters, Kyoto Nihongo Gakko, and a member of the Kyoto Machiya Fund which works to protect and preserve traditional Kyoto townhouses in the face of massive modernization. I'm also an international goodwill ambassador for Kyoto City. We have put up some video clips about this wonderful city and its culture in English with Japanese subtitles. We hope you enjoy them.

Kyoto is a city with a long history (more than 1200 years) and stands along with Tokyo and Osaka as one of the most popular destinations for foreign guests, both business people as well as tourists. Kyoto has more than 1000 temples and shrines. Among them are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of the popular sightseeing spots include Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kiyomizu Temple, the Gold and Silver Pavilions, and Nijo Castle. The Japanese gardens at these temples and shrines are breathtakingly beautiful and filled with quiet tranquility.

Everywhere you turn in Kyoto, there's a feeling of history and culture. Traditional craftsmen and artists create magnificent pottery, cloisonne, lacquerware, kimonos, calligraphy, and the list goes on and on. Kyoto also has a large number of antique shops as well as the outdoor temple sale at Toji Temple the 21st of every month and the Kitano Shrine outdoor bazaar on the 25th of every month. You can see the Japanese tea ceremony along with Ikebana flower arranging, Maiko dancing girls, and other traditional performing arts at the popular Gion Corner. You can also have the hands-on experience of making wagashi, Japanese confectionary, or turn into a Samurai or Ninja. Of course you can also put on a Japanese kimono and enjoy sightseeing in traditional Japanese style.

Kyoto has so many different places to stay, from traditional Ryokan (Japanese inns) to luxury hotels.
There are hotels and old townhouses where you can do your own cooking as well as youth hostels and other places for travelers on a tight budget. If you're coming for an extended stay, you can try renting a townhouse or even boarding with a Japanese family.

The food in Kyoto is fantastic! Of course there is traditional Japanese food, including Kaiseki full course meals, tempura, sushi, soba, udon, ramen, curry rice, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, and Kyoto obanzai, which is the traditional homecooking that's so delicious and so healthy. There are also a lot of restaurants and temples that serve vegetarian and vegan cuisine. As for international restaurants, there are French, Italian, Turkish, Mediterranean, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Nepal, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, African, Brazilian, and restaurants from countries all over the world. You can enjoy the food and beer at a gastro pub, or spend a memorable evening at a Japanese beer garden or at one of the Kawayuka verandah restaurants along the Kamogawa River in summer. You can also enjoy a coffee or tea at a traditional Japanese kissaten (coffee shop) or at one of the more modern cafes all over the city.

The Kamo River, running north to south along the east side of Kyoto is also an excellent place for jogging, taking a walk,or just relaxing. The water birds and the turtle-shaped stepping stones are quite popular. There are so many places to go hiking in the mountains around Kyoto, and the city itself, which is almost completely flat, is a great place for walking. It's less than 10 kilometers from Heian Shrine in the far east to Matsuo Taisha Shrine on the far west. Kyoto is filled with narrow streets that each offers it's own adventure. The city buses are inexpensive and easy to use, and there are trams and trains that are also available. Taxi drivers are friendly and courteous, and they are used to carrying foreign visitors around the city, so you can feel comfortable either hiring a taxi or just flagging one down.

Kyoto is a great place for shopping! Whether you want a souvenir for yourself or a gift for someone else, there's definitely something in Kyoto. I recommend visiting the Teramachi shopping arcade and the Nishiki Market that branches off from it. There are thousands of specialty shops all over the city where you can get traditional furoshiki cloths, incense, Japanese paper, or Japanese tea.
Whether you're coming to Kyoto on vacation, on business, or as a student, I recommend checking out our video clips before you arrive. You can travel around Kyoto with me, and that's a trip!

Jeff Berglund