Kicking up my heels in the historic district of Prescott, AZ and beyond

In case you were wondering what downtown historic Prescott, Arizona is like—it’s charming, clean, friendly and fun. Lots of historic buildings, galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels and old time saloons. I’m sure glad my road trip took me here. I had a blast exploring the area—hiking and mountain biking in the nearby Prescott National Forest by day and kicking up my heels on the saloon dance floors by night. As a solo woman traveler, I felt completely safe my entire trip. (Though it appears some don’t—lol. The concealed carry handbag in the picture below was featured in one of the store windows.)concealed carry handbag

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Nightlife – yes! Live Music – yes! Dancing – yes!

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Ready for my night out on the town in the lobby of the historic Hotel St Michael, Prescott

 

Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.

Hiking : Thumb Butte

Granite Basin

Mountain Biking: Prescott Valley to Prescott via the Iron King & Peavine Trails

Goldwater Lake

Restaurants: The Barley Hound Gastropub

Farm Provisions

Photo Post: Hiking in the hills of Kyoto

Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides so the opportunities to hike abound. I haven’t been able to locate my trail notes on this one so I’m just going to post some photos from my Kyoto walkabout for now.

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Sometimes your future

is clear and inviting. The

bridge appears; you cross.

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Hmm…

Sometimes it’s hard to

know which way to go so let

the forest guide you.

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Magical dappled light – must be the enlightened path

Find yourself in the

dazzling, dappled light-your path

to enlightenment.

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Hidden shrines

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Traditional buildings and cherry blossoms
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Temples

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Never too far from civilization
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Some signs are more helpful than others…
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Trail markers like this one at key intersections between Kyoto suburbia & Kyoto Forest trails were very helpful.

Check out my Kibune to Kurama hiking adventure too (trail notes included in that one).

Exploring Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, a feast for foodies and shoppers alike.

Most would agree that a trip to Kyoto isn’t complete unless you visit the Nishiki Market. Known to locals as “Kyoto’s Pantry”, the traditional, four-centuries-old Nishiki Food Market is a feast for the senses. The narrow, five block long shopping street is jam-packed with exotic (to the Westerner) items and approximately 130 food stands and restaurants. Bring your appetite to try something new for an unforgettable foodie experience. There are plenty of opportunities to taste samples or to buy snacks as you explore. Expect to be elbow to elbow with a big crowd of locals and tourists alike.

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History

The origins of the market date back to around 1310 when it was established as a wholesale fish district. Over time, it evolved into the bustling kaleidoscope of colorful stalls, shops and restaurants that it is today.

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Getting There

Less than a five minute walk from Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line (4 minutes, ~$2 from Kyoto Station) or via Karasuma or Kawaramachi Stations on the Hankyu Line. The market is parallel to Shijo Avenue, one block north of Shijo Avenue in downtown Kyoto

Other Top Things to Do in Kyoto

Explore the historic Arashiyama District

Visit the magnificent Kiyomizudera temple and Old Kyoto’s Higashiyama District

Go back to the ancient time of shoguns Nijo Castle

Go take a hike up Mt. Inari under 10 thousand Torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine

Get away from it all in the nearby hamlets of Kibune and Kurama

Exploring the Historic Arashiyama District, a Kyoto “Must do”

Whether you explore the historic Arashiyama District by foot, bike, boat, rickshaw or all of the above—it’s a Kyoto must do. Along the lovely scenic paths are temples, shrines, a bamboo forest, artisan shops and restaurants. Read on to discover the top 3 things to do in the area.

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Wow, those strong legs!

Many of the signs are also in English so it’s easy to navigate.

 

You’ll pass through residential areas as well and see people going about their daily routines, sweeping the streets with handmade brooms, tending their gardens, etc.

 

 

I love that the Arashiyama District is very walkable and bikeable with something new to see around every blossom-lined corner. It easy to see why this charming area is one of the most popular sightseeing districts in Kyoto.

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Plan on spending a half or full day here, soaking in the sights, shopping and getting a taste of the culture and cuisine. If you only have time for two quick stops, you’ll want to check out the Bamboo Forest and the Tenryu-ji Zen Temple. If at all possible, make the time for a leisurely explore and include an excursion on the Hozu River. You’ll be glad you did.

 Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

 

 

 

While many say that this bamboo forest is the “star” attraction of the Arashiyama District, I was a bit underwhelmed by it (crowds and a path running through it).

Tenryu-ji Zen Temple One of the Top 5 Zen Temples in Kyoto, this temple has an amazing Zen garden that dates back to the 14 Century. The beautiful garden features a pond that is framed by maple trees, rocks and mountain views. Admission Fee: ~$5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hozu River You can take a short scenic boat ride here or start from nearby Tanba-Kameoka (16K away) and embark on a  leisurely two hour boat ride that takes passengers down the winding Hozu River to Arashiyama. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time, but it sounds like a wonderful experience – self propelled on a rental canoe or escorted.

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20160408_114126 Cheers to another memorable day in Kyoto.

 

Getting there: Take the JR Sagano (also known as JR  San-in) Line from Kyoto station to JR Saga-Arashiyma station.The local and express (or limited) lines are on platforms 32-35. The express makes 3 stops, local makes 6. It approximately a 15 minute ride and costs ~$3.

Looking for other cool things to do in Kyoto? Check out Nijo Castle,Kiyomidera Temple and the Higashiyami Historic District.Visit Fushimi Inari and make the pilgrimage under its 1000 torii gates or take off for the countryside and explore the hamlets of Kibune and Kurama  – perhaps soak in tradition in an onsen (hot springs) while you’re there.

 

Kiyomizudera, Kyoto: Magnificent temple and Higashiyama District excursion

Yes, another temple to put on your list of top 10 things to do in Kyoto. Kiyomizudera is a must see historical monument of ancient Kyoto and an UNESCO World Heritage site. (TripAdvisor rates it as the #3 thing to do in Kyoto.)

Founded in 780, Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple)  is an independent Buddhist temple and one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. The magnificent Hondo or main hall is built on a cliff on the eastern hills of Kyoto, halfway up Mt. Otowa on the site of a waterfall (hence the name).The temple is dedicated to the diety, Kannon, and continues to be a pilgrimage site. Kannon is depicted with 11 faces and forty arms, and revered for his mercy and compassion. It is said that Kannon is the embodiment of each person’s “invisible heart of gratitude”.

A message from the temple:

Happiness for all via a greater sense of gratitude for your everyday life.

How’s that for a timeless message that we can all strive to achieve?

The buildings and grounds are breathtaking, but the crowds can be overwhelming. I later learned that it opens at 6AM so it might be that the early risers have the place to themselves then. I imagine experiencing a sunrise here would be enchanting.  That being said, night viewing, while extremely crowded, was undeniably magical.  Three times per year in the spring, summer and autumn, the temple buildings are open  at night and lit so artistically – the effect is extremely dramatic and beautiful. Check schedule for night viewing dates

Main Entrance

Nio-mon, the main entrance (above), was burnt down during civil war (1467-1477) and rebuilt in the 16th century.

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The cliff-side, Hondo was rebuilt in 1633. It features ancient Japanese construction methods and was built entirely without nails (like ancient jenga). It is an impressive architectural wonder. I’m not sure my feature picture captured the massive size and intricacy of the wood construction so here is a picture that does a much better job. Photo Credit: http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp

Hondo

The views from there to Kyoto city below are quite lovely. (Understatement.)

Dreamy Kyoto Vistas

Note: The main hall is under construction between February 2017 and March 2020 so some viewing areas may be covered, but the building will still be open to visitors.

Hours: Open 6AM, closing  time depends on the season. See schedule. 
Open: 365 days per year
Admission: ~$4

Make a Day or Night of It

If you have time, you’ll want to explore the Higashiyama District itself, it’s one of the city’s best preserved historic districts, just outside the temple grounds. Here you can experience  the charm of old Kyoto. Narrow lanes and traditional architecture transport you back in time. Take it all in as you stroll by quaint shops, cafes and restaurants that have been catering to tourists and temple pilgrims for centuries. Pick up some souvenirs here and stop in for tea, a snack or a meal.

Note: This Higashiyama District closes down early in the evenings, except during light festivals, such as the night viewings at Kiyomizudera so inquire and plan accordingly.

Looking for other cool things to do in Kyoto? Check out Nijo Castle. Ready to get out of the city and into the countryside – maybe take a dip in an onsen (hot springs)? Consider exploring the country hamlets of Kibune and Kurama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nijo Castle, Kyoto: A magical, historical site to see, especially at night during the Sakura Festival

Put Nijo Castle on your list of the top 10 things to do and see in Kyoto. (While trip Advisor lists it as #40 of things to do, I’d say the evening viewings during the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Festival in the spring are well worth the visit.)

Visiting the Kyoto residence of Japan’s first shogun circa the Edo Period, you will be transported to another time and palace. Built in 1603, the castle was completed twenty-three years later by his grandson. The castle and its grounds (including picturesque cherry and plum tree orchards) are surrounded by stone walls and moats.

When the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace.  Eventually, it was donated to the city as a historical site and opened to the public.

Designated an UNESCO world heritage site, the castle’s buildings are some of the best surviving examples of the Japan’s feudal era palace architecture.

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The 36,000-square-foot Ninomaru Palace consists of five buildings and is built almost entirely of Hinoki cypress, much of which is adorned with gold leaf and elaborate wood carvings.

Interesting fact: The nightingale wood floors of the palace were constructed to squeak as a way of announcing intruders.

During the Sakura Festival in the spring, the castle offers special evening viewings. It mesmerizing to walk under the dozens of cherry trees with their bountiful blossoms dancing in the breeze against the night sky. And the castle, with its moat and fortified walls, is much more impressive glimmering in the moonlight. It’s quite a magical experience.

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Cherry blossom fantasy land. (Well, minus the omnipresent crowds.)

Exploring Fushimi Inari & Its Iconic 10,000 Gates, Kyoto

Another attraction to put on your top 10 things to do in Kyoto list. The Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Kyoto dates back to the seventh century (~711 AD) when the Hata family built it and dedicated it to Inari, the god of rice and sake. Today, it remains the head shrine for over 30 000 Inari shrines across Japan and is one of Japan’s most visited shrines and a top sight-seeing destination. (TripAdvisor rates it as the #1 thing to do in Kyoto – not sure I agree. I was far more impressed with their #3 Kiyomizudera temple, but I was fortunate to experience a special night viewing there.)

The Fushimi Inari Shrine may look vaguely familiar to you if you’ve seen the movie Memoir of a Geisha, some of which was filmed here. But the shrine itself is not the main attraction―it’s the iconic orange torii gates (10,000 and counting) that crown the 2.5 mile pathway up Mount Inari (764 feet). While it’s a relatively short “hike” on a concrete path that winds its way up the hill past multitudes of mini-shrines, it can take a while given the crowds. The “summit” is a bit anti-climatic, city and mountain views were smudged with smog when I was there.

Fushimi Inari
At the entrance…

Instead of returning the way you came, you can hike down the other side of the mount on forest trails into either Yamashina or Tofukuji, another temple area that’s especially popular when the leaves are turning. Really, you can’t go wrong walking anywhere in Kyoto. Kyoto is all about having a scenic, cultural and beautiful experience, but it is Japan so you’ll most likely be sharing that experience with the masses.

Torii gates
Not artsy, just editing out the crowd.

What’s with the gates?

Torii gates symbolize the division between the physical world and the spiritual world. The oldest Torri gates here date back to the 8th century, but new gates are still being added, “donated” by Japanese businesses in hopes of obtaining prosperity and good luck. Today, the price for good luck if you go with a big gate is around 10k; 4k for smaller gates.

What’s with the foxes?

You’ll also encounter many stone statues of foxes, messengers of the god Inari. The foxes often carry symbolic objects, such as a key to the granary (as in the fox in the picture with me at the entrance), a sheaf of rice or a scroll. You may see some fox statues wearing red scarves, which are thought to expel demons and illness. Some fox statues may be equipped multiple tails to symbolize older, wiser and more powerful foxes.

Hours: Open 24/7, best times – early morning or evenings, otherwise expect a crowd.

Cost: FREE!

Getting there:  The shrine is located just outside JR Inari Station, two stops South from Kyoto Station (main station) along the JR Nara Line and takes 5 minutes one way. It is also a short walk from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.

Notes: There’s a street market and shops and restaurants near the shrine’s entrance and also there are a couple of  little food shops near the “top”.

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Eel on a stick, anyone?

Plenty more sights to see in Kyoto

Ready to check out an ancient shogun’s castle or a wooden temple dating back to 780 that’s built without nails, or would you prefer to get away from it all in the scenic hamlets of Kibune and Kurama?