Today was our “Get around and see stuff” day, with our priority being the Imperial Palace. We’d seen a little bakery around the corner we decided to hit up for Breakfast first.


We went to Sizyua which was just around the corner from our hotel. A local bakery which has been going since 1948 and is named after the founders wife.

A breakfast plate with thick white toast and a hard boiled egg

We had the curious breakfast combo of toast and a hard boiled egg. I had white bread where my family had the fruit bread.

Whilst to us being foreigners, the combo was slightly odd but still delicious. Thick well toasted and beautifully buttered bread, and a nice hard boiled egg! What’s not to like!?

We were all very impressed and looked over the fabulous looking sandwiches as well. We frequented Sizuya’s a few times for breakfast/sandwiches after this introduction.

Imperial Palace

Our bellies full, we started to walk towards the Imperial palace. The weather started to turn and we had our first proper sustained rain during our time here, so we had to run to a Konbini and buy some Konbini Umbrellas 1

We carried on our walk afterwards and soon hit the grounds of Kyoto Imperial Palace

An old Japanese entrance gate at the imperial palace

Rain pouring into the small moat of the imperial palace

The atmosphere in the rain was really nice, and a welcome respite to the heat that we’d experienced so far.

A decorative carriage stop at the imperial palace

This however, was the first incident of us accidentally setting off an alarm 😬🚨

My youngest son took it on himself to leap over one of the small moats and walk along the wall. This caused a site-wide alarm and voice to boom out advising us to correct our behaviour as soon as possible.

Sheepishly told off, he leapt back and we continued walking as a police car then popped around the corner.

“Are they here for me!” He said to which I replied “I guess we’ll find out!” 🀭

They were thankfully not here for him, and as we walked around the grounds we heard the same alarm trigger at least another couple of times.

The pebble lain large open area at the imperial palace

The palace grounds were fabulous to walk around, even in this weather. Seeing the different areas and how they were used to present and host guests and the thought that goes into they layout and design of each area was great to read about. Once we got to the gardens as well, they were beautiful to look at with the little bridges crossing over the lake. I can only imagine each season must make it beautiful in its own unique way.

A moss covered wooden bridge and lush trees in the imperial palace gardens

A red leaved tree by the imperial palace lake

Culturally fulfilled, we moved on to filling our bellies by walking to the North of the grounds to one of the top “Must visit” places on my list. I’d heard about this place in a Tokyo Creative Video. Sasaya Iori a Kyoto Confectioner with history dating back to 1716 has a tea/confectionary shop on the Imperial Palace grounds, and it looked so amazing I simply had to go there.

The wooden menu at Saray

I had a matcha parfait and Yuzu soda. The rest of the family had the pancake/icecream/red bean mixtures they sold. This place was wonderful. From the tasteful classic yet modern design, relaxing atmosphere down to the sheer quality of the ingredients themselves, If you ever find yourself in Kyoto find the time to experience this place. It’s really something special. Not to be missed!

A photo of the cafe through a circular port hole

A Matcha Parfait and yuzu soda on a wooden tray

Me with my parfeit

Kyoto Tower & Downtown

Kyoto Tower

Our next stop was to checkout the downtown area as well as pop in on Kyoto Tower

A view of the Kyoto Post Office from Kyoto Tower

A view of a central highway next to a large temple viewed from Kyoto Tower

As well as the observation deck itself, Kyoto Tower has stores in the ground floor selling a variety of foods and souvenirs and a food hall in the basement. Controversial when first built in the 1960’s and apparently dwindling in popularity nowadays I really enjoyed the experience of going up the tower and getting some arial views of Kyoto.

Watching the Shinkansen arrive and depart at the station was particularly exciting.

Purple neon sign of japanese writing in the food hall

A tray of Gyoza and Rice

My eldest Son eating Gyoza

We discovered another popular thing in Japan that we would enjoy immensely and that is the concept of a food hall. A shared canteen style area with several restaurants cooking up a mixture of dishes. Myself and my wife went for noodles, my eldest a Gyoza plate and my youngest a Wagyu burger. Everyone getting something they liked.

My youngest Son eating a Wagyu beef burger

Me waiting for my meal at the food hall in Kyoto Tower

My Wife eating vegan noodles with lots of green stems

Downtown we found a huge Yodobashi Camera a tech/department store that we wandered around looking at everything from Cameras, video games, home appliances and even Robots!

These are Lovot’s a companion robot made to keep people company. An artificial pet so to speak. This has a camera and sensors so it knows where you are, what you’re doing and interacts accordingly. It makes eye contact, waves to get your attention and follows you around. These things were incredible to see in action. Like a movie effect in real life. 🀯

Kyoto Vibes

Kyoto is a really interesting mixture of old and new to a larger extreme than Tokyo, which outside of temples and some areas is primarily modern and shiny. Seeing how the different aspects of the city rub up against each other whilst still feeling in harmony is really interesting.

An example of an old Kyoto based house

Fake food display for a restaurant

An example of a small Japanese building containing several businesses with colourful signs outside

Tempura For Dinner

We found a Tempura restaurant and whilst nervous of the ordering process and protocol we decided to go all in. And boy were we glad we did! This place was fabulous.

Paper lantern with a squid painted on

A line of paper lanterns outside the restaurant

Tempura bar

Tempura ordering was done via a form where you ticked and put in numbers of amounts you wanted. We chose a mixture of chicken, vegetables, squid (to which the waiter came back, pointed at the squid amount and informed us “way too much” and adjusted our order 🀣) and some drinks. We were informed how the drawers containing chopsticks and sauces worked, as well as how to use the Tentsuya dipping sauce on the table.

We tuck in and were all super impressed by the quality and flavour. A huge amount of food, and two rounds of drinks for everyone came to around Β₯8,000 (About Β£45). We thought we’d been undercharged at first!

Family eating Tempura

Tempura chicken

Me and my son eating Tempura

With full bellies, we decided to explore Gion District and Pontocho alley next.

Gion District/Kyoto At Night

We wandered the edges of the Gion district seeing the really high class (And in some cases invitation only) restaurants in the old streets by the water.

A river in Kyoto’s old town at night. Light reflecting off the surface

Entrance to a Kyoto restaurant with a lantern portraying a samurais face

An alleyway entrance to a restaurant

A cat portrayed on a lantern

We drifted towards the main river and streets taking in the atmosphere as people drank and sang by the riverside whilst someone played a guitar.

A row of riverside restaurants at night. The glow of the windows lighting and reflecting the water

A row of riverside restaurants at night. The glow of the windows lighting and reflecting the water

Again we saw examples of how the old and new rub up against each other with an old building wedged between two more glass and steel modern creations.

An old building tucked between two modern steel and glass buildings

And we also spotted a local character dressed as an old timey prisoner, riding a Harley Davidson whilst blasting out Queens We Will Rock You!

A man dressed as a prisoner on a harley davidson motorbike

Pontocho District

We finished with a walk around Ponto-Cho, a narrow alleyway full of eateries and bars where we hoped to even spot a Geisha.

A lantern with the Chidori which is the red bird symbol of Pontocho area of Kyoto

This areas symbol is a Chidori, a Japanese bird and they are detailed on the lanterns around the area. You’ll spot them everywhere.

My wife exploring the Chidori streets

My family posing on the Chidori streets for a photo

No photos I’m afraid as it’s considered extremely rude and bad form, but it didn’t take long for us to see a Geisha leading two elderly extremely well dressed gentlemen down the street. We were extremely excited and stepped aside to let them pass down the narrow alley.

A wooden alleyway to one of the many Kyoto eateries

The sign of the Hello Dolly jazz club. A bronze sign of a woman in a hat

I took the chance to take a few more moody/stylish shots to take in the atmosphere of the place. I don’t think the eateries here would be the most child friendly, but if my wife and I ever return solo when the kids are older, I can see us spending a fun evening at the places around here.

One of the dark chidori alleyways with a silhouetted man at the end

A young couple walk towards the camera down a tight alleyway

An Alleyway with an array of colourful lanterns at the end

Exhaustion taking over excitement we eventually retired to our room, set out our futons and drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow, the bamboo forest & further explorations of Higashiyama await!

  1. Y500 cheap umbrellas sold for situations precisely like ours! Watch out when leaving them in communal spaces as they’re one of the only things that will get “stolen” (Socially borrowed) in Japan if you’re not careful! ↩︎