what to do in the am
Arashimaya - Bamboo Forest
This area is on the west part of Kyoto and about a 40 minute train ride or 25 minutes taxi ride from Kyoto proper. It's scenic and full of nature and one of the most popular places within Arashimaya is the Bamboo Forest. I recommend you get there early, around 8am, to take advantage of the calm, quiet beautiful forest.
Arashimaya - Monkey Park
After the bamboo forest, stop by the monkey park which is across the river and a bit of a hike up. It takes about 30 minutes to go up, not too arduous but a bit longer than expected. Once you get up there you'll see tons of macaques monkeys around the park. At the top, you can go to their playhouse where they know to stay on the outside of the building while you enter inside. You can purchase snacks like bananas, apples, and peanuts to feed them.
Arashimaya - % Arabica Coffee
Touted as one of the best coffee shops in the area, expect some long lines for their artisan coffee.
It's a beautiful cafe with views of the river from the inside.
If you don't know this shrine by name, you'll know it by the orange gates. Fushimi Inari is famous for its over 14,000 Torii gates that go up the small mountain. It's about a 1-1.5 hour walk to the top (2-3 hours round trip) but you can go as far as you want and just turn back. Definitely go early to take advantage of the calmness and serenity and when there are fewer people to get a great photo op.
When you exit the shrine, take advantage of the street food in the area and pick up delicious things like mochi filled with red bean and strawberries, grilled sweet potatoes, and more.
what to do in the pm
This area is famous for geishas and when I was here I saw a geisha on her way to a tea house for an appointment. Gion is a great place to wander around in the later afternoon for shopping, restaurants, and tea. The traditional part of Gion is Hanami-koji.
The more modern part of Gion is Shijo Dori which has bigger stores for shopping, a lot more lights, and is generally a busier street.
Nishiki Food Market
Another must-see in Kyoto, if you like to eat and explore more native foods. It runs for about 8 - 10 blocks with food vendors on both sides. There are vendors that sell all sorts of delicious Japanese food - donuts, mochi, ice cream, green tea, seafood, etc, and etc. It's great to come here for lunch and just make a meal out of this entire strip.
where to stay
Hotel Kanra Hotel
Highly recommend this boutique hotel for its location, cleanliness and attention to detail. The rooms are decorated in a ryokan style with cedar walls and floors, modern bathroom, and a huge wooden bathtub perfect for relaxing after a day of touring.
Each room has a small entry way - it's almost like entering your own home.