Kyoto — Japan's 1,000-year-old ancient capital
Among the city's plethora of sightseeing spots, one that stands out among the rest is the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Including Teramachi—a shopping street filled with wall to wall century-old businesses—the area around the imperial palace is and has been a thriving hub since ancient times.
With so much around, you can't go to the imperial palace and not explore the nearby shops. However, this is said than done as the area surrounding the palace is actually quite large. As it'd be hard to cover the entire area in just one day, we've put together two separate half-day plans that show you around the best of the Kyoto Imperial Palance and Teramachi-dori area.
In our first half-day plan aimed at first-timers to the imperial palace area, Shin takes us through spots brimming with the history and traditions of Kyoto.
As this course focuses on experiencing the culture and history of the area, it’s a good idea to give it a good read before following it yourself.
12 p.m.: Lunch at Honke Owariya
Honke OwariyaThe area around the Kyoto Imperial Palace is full of historical restaurants, however, the one we recommend is long-standing Kyoto soba restaurant, Honke Owariya. With over 550 years of history, Honke Owariya has not only supplied its noodles to high profile temples but to the imperial palace itself as well. Calling central Kyoto home for centuries, Honke Owariya is one of the most beloved restaurants in the entire city.
Soba NoodlesThe dish to try at Honke Owariya is the “Horai Soba.” This huge set consists of a five-tiered tower of soba noodles and an assortment of toppings that include scallions, sesame seeds, seaweed and tempura. The numerous toppings allow you to enjoy a different flavor for each plate of soba. This set allows you to delve deep into the world of soba and is a definite must-try.
Soba-gashiSomething that can’t be left out of any mention of Honke Owariya is their buckwheat sweets known as soba-gashi. Originally, Honke Owariya was a sweets maker and, with time, came to be known for their noodles instead. However, this renowned soba restaurant still bears its heritage with the likes of its soba mochi and buckwheat-based baked goods.
Experience the unique flavors that only a sweets maker turned noodle shop can offer.
1 p.m.: A Sake Brewery Using Kyoto’s Famed Water
Kinshi Masamune Horino Memorial MuseumBlending into the surroundings of the imperial palace neighborhood, Kinshi Masamune is a sake brewery with a history of over 200 years. Since its establishment, Kinshi Masamune has been using the clean water that flows through Kyoto to produce and sell everything from sake to beer. In addition to its shop, Kinshi Masamune also houses a memorial museum where you can find exhibitions on the brewery's history, a traditional sake warehouse and learn about the path that led Kinshi Masamune to where it is today.
A Glass of Well WaterInside Kinshi Masamune, you will find the “momo-no-i,” a well that, even now, spouts Kyoto’s famed water. The water that comes from the well is both refreshing and clean, so feel free to grab a glass if you’re so inclined.
Local Beer/SakeThe brewery houses a shop where you can buy Kishin Masamune’s beer and sake too. You can try any bottles that catch your eye, so take your time browsing and trying the various sake.
Anything purchased inside the store can be enjoyed right there, so why not enjoy the oddly bougie feeling of sitting down with a glass of sake right in front of a well spurting the same water used to make it.
2 p.m.: The Kyoto Imperial Palace – The Former Residence of the Imperial Family
By 2 p.m., you should have made your way to the main attraction of this half-day plan, the Kyoto Imperial Palace. From 794 to 1869, the Kyoto Imperial Palace was the residence of the Japanese emperor, meaning that these grounds sat at the center of Japanese politics and culture for centuries.
The Palace GroundsBefore heading inside the imperial palace itself, you’ll need to pass through the surrounding Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. These grounds used to house a small village of noble and imperial residences. Nowadays, the grounds are maintained as a national garden that is 1300 meters long and 700 meters wide. The garden also features a good amount of greenery and in spring and autumn comes alive with beautiful cherry blossoms and maple leaves respectively. In addition to the beautiful seasonal sights, the grounds are also loved by locals as a sort of park.
The Imperial Palace
Located in the north-west of the Gyoen National Garden sits the Kyoto Imperial Palace itself.
You will find the entrance on the western side of the palace walls. Inside is a plethora of things to see that provide you a sense of the palace’s rich history, including the palace pond, design of the buildings and fusuma sliding doors. You will need at least an hour to see everything.
Multilingual ToolsThe incredible Kyoto Imperial Palace is also outfitted with a number of multilingual tools aid visitors from overseas in fully understanding the history of the palace’s many buildings. In addition to pamphlets including a map of the palace and the route around it, there are also audio guides provided by the Japanese government.
ToursAlthough only offered in English and (simplified) Chinese, the palace also holds two free tours a day (10 a.m. & 2 p.m.).
These tours require no prior reservations, so if you wait in the rest area just inside the entrance, you will be able to join when it comes time to start. Each tour takes about 50 minutes.
For more info on the Kyoto Imperial Palace, see our article below!
3:30 p.m.: Take a Break at the Long-standing Japanese Sweets Maker Toraya Karyo Kyoto Ichijo
Your legs will probably be tired by this time, so take a break at long-standing Kyoto Japanese sweets maker Toraya Karyo Kyoto Ichijo, situated just outside of the palace’s Nakadachiuri-Gomon Gate.
Toraya Karyo Kyoto IchijoToraya is a historied store that has sold traditional Japanese sweets in this area of Kyoto in five separate centuries. In the second half of the 16th century, Toraya worked for the imperial palace and even today, that undeniable quality remains apparent.
If you’re looking to experience what such delicious traditional Japanese sweets might taste like, then Toraya Karyo Kyoto Ichijo is the place to go.
Charyo CafeToraya also houses a spacious café where you can sit back and relax while enjoying their delicious sweets.
One of the highlights of the café is the incredible garden that can be seen through the huge windows.
This part of the plan gives you the opportunity to relax with some traditional Japanese sweets against a picturesque traditional Japanese backdrop.
Namagashi SweetsOne item that is a must-try at Toraya Karyo are their namagashi. Namagashi are moist traditional Japanese sweets made largely of sweet red bean paste. All of the namagashi offered at Toraya are not only incredible in taste but appearance too.
The exact namagashi offered changes twice a month, meaning that you’re always sure to get something that’s both brilliantly colorful and seasonally appropriate.
YokanToraya’s most famous sweets, however, are their yokan. Yokan are jelly-like Japanese sweets that are made with red bean paste and solidified with agar. Yokan can keep for a long time, so they are the perfect souvenir. We recommend enjoying the other sweets at Toraya’s café and getting the yokan as souvenirs.
Between the Nakadachiuri-Gomon Gate and Toraya Karyo, there is a separate Toraya shop, so if you’re looking to get some souvenirs, make sure to check it out too.
This was Shin’s history-based half-day tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace area. If this is your first time in the area, then try to absorb everything suggested so you can have the best time possible!
In addition to the places shown above, there are a ton of other amazing spots to check out around the imperial palace, so if you’d like to see more, then click here!
|Sakurako[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]|