Hello965 Friends: KYOTO, JAPAN

By @Almallaks

Why we chose this city: Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and if you like history and sightseeing, this is really a city you have to visit. It is filled with beautiful shrines and monuments. There is really a lot to see. It also known to the place where geishas reside.


Duration: Essentially we stayed 2 nights. BUT, we recommend that you stay at least 2 additional nights (total of 4) depending on how much you want to see. There is A LOT to explore in this city and it may take a while to get from one place to the other (especially by train or on foot), so it really depends on you and how much you want to see.


Where we stayed: We stayed at the Best Western Hotel Kyoto. It is a nice hotel and the location was great too in between the markets and main shopping streets.

  • Things to do/see in Kyoto:
    • Monuments and shrines are endless – you must research in advance -but because we didn’t have a lot of time, we picked the top ones we wanted to see. They are:
      • Fushimi Inari Shrine (featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha). This will easily take you 2-3 hours to finish if you plan to walk through the whole shrine.


      • Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) – so, so gorgeous.


      • Arashiyama Bamboo Groves: this was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Very cool.


    • Make sure to walk around in the Gion district of Kyoto, and ask your hotel for recommendations in this area. It has restaurants, cafes, stores, art, you name it. This is the best place to see geishas – especially in the evening.


  • Shopping in Kyoto:
    • Shijō Kawaramachi – this is the main shopping street in the area and it intersects with many others. So just pick a day and walk around to explore the area. There is really a lot to see.
    • If you take a right after exiting the hotel, there is a whole area of shopping in the back. Really nice stores. There was even one store where you can get new prescription glasses made in 15 minutes. No, we’re not lying, because we actually did it. Japan will blow your mind.
  • Food in Kyoto:
    • Kiyamachi Street. Lovely place. Lots of restaurants.
    • Chaochao: We loved this dumplings place on Kiyamachi Street. Ask your hotel for directions. Simple and delicious food. They even have a dessert dumpling (chocolate on the inside, ice cream on the side, YUMMY!)


    • British Baaba: We had breakfast at this European pancakes place. I know I know, we’re in Japan – but hey, it’s breakfast! Amazing little restaurant with the coziest interior and the most decadent pancakes you’ll ever see. 1 minute walk from the Best Western Hotel Kyoto.


[JR Train: (Kyoto to Kanazawa) – 2h 7m – 0 transfer]


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Japan 101

by @Almallaks



We started planning our trip way in advance because we wanted to get the most out of it. We decided to go for 3 weeks and cover as many cities as possible. How did we decide on the cities? After loads and loads, and LOADS of research. There are so many beautiful places in Japan and so many things to see and experience. It is impossible to cover it all, unfortunately. So, it all comes down to preference and what you want to see and do.

Our route:

Tokyo -> Osaka -> Nara -> Kyoto -> Kanazawa -> Matsumoto ->Yamanouchi ->Tokyo

Japan Route

When to go: You can choose to go in any time of year, there are cities for every season: beaches and mountain climbing for summer, ski resorts for winter, and the spring for none other than the beautiful cherry blossoms. That was our choice – the cherry blossoms. So, we chose to go Mid-March to beginning April. But even with meticulous planning, the cherry blossoms bloom according to the weather that year, so it’s risky.  We kept our fingers crossed.

What to do before you go:

  1. If you’re planning on being in Japan for a while and traveling to different cities, the easiest and most economical way to travel is by train. Taking a cab everywhere will get very expensive, very quickly.
  2. We recommend purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited access to the Japan Rail (JR) Lines. We took the train everywhere even within the cities whenever we could. You can purchase one of their packages on their website: Here’s the thing, you can only purchase this pass BEFORE you go to Japan and once you land at the airport you activate it.


Another thing you should look into is getting a MIFI: mobile wireless internet. That way, you can use your phone while you’re there without actually having to get a Japanese line. Cheap and easy. They actually can have it delivered to your hotel and then before you leave Japan, just place it in the cardboard envelope they provide and drop into any mailbox close by and  you’re done.  We got ours from

  1. ASK– anyone and everyone that you know who has been to Japan. Everyone has a different experience when they go– the more things you know, the more choices you’ll have on what to do when you get there. And even then, you’ll end up doing only a fraction of that stuff and find your own activities that you happened to come across. It’s just that kind of place.



If you’re planning on doing what we did (3 weeks, multiple cities via train), we highly recommend taking MINIMAL luggage. You will need to be mobile. Their trains run like clockwork, by the minute, literally. There will be a train at 5:17 pm and it will leave exactly at 5:17 pm – no joke. And there will be lots of walking (and getting lost) and stairs.  So, we only took a total of 4 pieces: two carry-ons (small, compact, 4 wheels for easy maneuvering) and two backpacks. And that’s it.

No, we are not kidding. You have to pack extremely well. Things you can layer, things you can re-wear and match with ease. Do not take anything you don’t really “need.”


OK, Although it’s been a while since we went, we will try to be as thorough as possible. We want to give this beautiful place justice. Stay tuned and read the details of our experience in future posts on!!


Almallaks is all about family health and fitness. Saad and Noor – fitness enthusiasts at heart – with their little girl, Faye, post about their daily life, workouts, food and parenthood in hopes that they can grow as a family, stay active, have fun, and inspire others to do the same.
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