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CIEE Kyoto

Authored by Zachary Gauthier

My daily life in Japan consisted of a lot of traveling, as much as I could do outside of my classes and work. Going to Japan, I made it one of my goals to visit and see as many places as I could before I went home. This was made relatively easier by Kyoto’s fantastic walkability and by Japan’s efficient, fast, and cheap public transportation system.

Coming from the United States, where cars are needed to get anywhere and everywhere, I really appreciated living in a city where there were tons of interesting things within walking distance. There were two Seven Elevens and a Lawson within a one or two minute walk from my apartment, and plenty of amazing restaurants within a five minute walk. Ten minutes away was Teramachi, a huge shopping street that had hundreds of shops and restaurants, and led to another similar street, Kawaramachi, that also had many stores, places to eat, and things like arcades and karaoke. Having all of this be so close was really nice, and I think I went to Teramachi almost every other night.


But there were also many historic sites located very close to the area that we lived in. Nijō Castle and the Imperial Place were only ten minutes to the west and north, respectively, and there were dozens of temples across the river within a twenty- to thirty-minute walk. I have one memory of a time when I was reading up about Oda Nobunaga, and I found out he was assassinated in a temple in Kyoto. Curious about where this happened, I looked up the temple, and found out it was just five minutes away from my apartment!

This was another thing I loved about the city, namely that there were always things to do. When I arrived, I went to a travel guide website and wrote down every single thing they recommended going to, which I think was over thirty or forty places, and decided that I wanted to try to go to every single one before I left. Even doing one or two every weekend, in addition to ones before or after class if time allowed, I only barely managed to finish before having to leave. Each one of these places was really interesting and special as well, and they were mostly temples, shrines, and historical sites, so there is even more to do if one looks beyond those places.

              It was also really easy to travel around to interesting places near Kyoto, as Japan’s fantastic train system makes that very easy and cheap. Osaka, Japan’s third largest city, and Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital and rich with history, are both about an hour from Kyoto Station by train. I wound up visiting Nara many times because it was also a great city. Just beyond Osaka is Kobe, and past Kobe is Himeji, which is famous for having the largest castle in Japan. In the opposite direction, Nagoya is only thirty minutes away by bullet train, with Tokyo being an additional hour and a half beyond that. I went to all of these places except for Himeji, as I ran out of time for it, but all of the rest were really nice to visit and had their own character that made them special, and their proximity to Kyoto makes going to them a really fun and easy day trip for a weekend. 




I went to and saw a lot of places in Japan, and I wouldn’t trade any of the places I went to for somewhere else; they were all special and unique in their own ways. This extends not just to the temples and shrines, but to the restaurants and shops too. There was never a place that I regretted going to. Although it was tiring at times, especially when I was busy with class, I’m glad that I traveled as much as I did, both within the city and without. I’ll definitely treasure each memory of each place I went to for the rest of my life.