Meeting Japan: Kyoto Imperial Palace x Gion

By Elie - 7:00 AM

Days since my last post:4 

Time to catch up and try to finish my Japan series before I make more which I will be anyway. Phew, talk about being on a major backlog! So onwards to my 9th day in Japan, of which we made our way back to Kyoto again! After days of being in Osaka, my other half and I thought that we both had no had enough of Kyoto but for separate reasons. This was why we made a decision to go back to Kyoto after buying a 1-day Keihan pass for ¥700 per person and we were allowed on the Keihan railway to anywhere around Osaka and Kyoto.


My main reason of returning to Kyoto was the fact that I had not seen the Kyoto Imperial Palace; the place of residence for the Imperial Family up until 1868. Cited as a must-visit for most tourists by tourists, I braced myself to a solo adventure in Kyoto and walked from the Demachiyanagi station all the way to the palace because my pass only allowed me on the Keihan line, when there is actually a closer station from the Karasuma Subway line.

Autumn leaves.

Basking in the autumn sun. 

Before you can arrive at the palace however, you will come across this huge park known as the Kyoto Imperial Park where people of the young and old come to have a walk or sit around to have their meals. I think it took me a long 15-minute walk before I got to the palace, but I was lucky that the weather was mildly chilly with the blowing winds and with the occasional tinge of the sun rays, it was made into a very comfortable stroll.

Grab your free pass!

The gates of the Imperial Palace.

Security is extremely tight at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and everyone is subject to a bag check before you can enter. You'll also be given a visitor's tag to wear at all times, and guards are always around to tell you where you can and cannot enter. Because most structures were built really long ago, you can't actually enter any of the buildings but they're still a fascinating watch from outside as you can stare into the details from the open doors and windows.

The red gates of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Brown and white structures are commonly seen here.

Beyond the vast blue skies.

The palace was previously a place where you can only visit if you make a booking with their tour guides but you can now just make a visit as time permits and you can walk freely as long as you don't break their rules like stepping into off-limit grounds. You can also pick up a copy of their historical booklets before you walk in, or just read some information off the boards they have available for tourists.

Absolutely loved it.

Imagine seeing a sight as this if you could live here.

The visit to this palace however is really only for someone who loves to sight-see and do nothing else but that, because there's nothing to do here. Unlike the Osaka Castle Museum, this palace holds no interactive spaces for you to touch and you can only look at everything from afar. The grounds however are very well kept and you can almost imagine living here amidst the serene lakes and greenery around the palace. It only takes about 30 minutes to an hour for the entire palace walk, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to look at the old Japan with their own eyes.

Kyoto Imperial Palace  
Open from 9 AM to 5 PM 
Closed on Mondays 
Entrance is FREE


Having failed our maiko spotting in the earlier parts of our trip, I was determined to return to Gion since I was already in Kyoto and I swore to myself that I would keep my eyes peeled for even a glimpse of the maiko. 

Wandering the streets.

I love you Japan, for the beauty of your everything even without edits or a filter.

And I love how clean your streets are, even as I crouch for this photo.

Maiko spotting can be a tricky thing in Gion because just about anyone could rent a kimono to walk around the streets to feel like a true local, but after reading up about how you can tell a real from the wannabes, I became increasingly interested to see them. One thing to learn however is that if you see them, you can never at anytime stop them and ask for a picture because chances are, they're rushing to a tea house for work. 

Quick, gentle steps.

When I finally spotted one as she entered the Gion Centre however, it was just a little too late to see what she looked like in front but it was just as satisfying as finishing a warm bowl of local ramen. Gion is indeed an area filled with a lively buzz as the night falls, and you can mostly see maikos come dusk when the sun begins to fall into the dark skies. It's almost like a treasure hunt, except the reward is beyond words.

Maiko spotting  
Mostly on weekends after 5 PM
It's free obviously, you just need some luck and a lot of patience!

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