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Yes, Tokyo is on everyone’s bucket list. But we submit that if you only visit one city in Japan, it should be Kyoto. Here’s why.

Tokyo is in Japan, but Kyoto IS Japan.

You’ll feel as though you stepped straight into the weathered pages of a historic novel just strolling around. Walk through shrines, imperial gardens and palaces and be at peace in the refined environment this little city can provide.

The REAL culture shock: the people

It doesn’t matter if you’re a people person or not; a simple interaction, filled with language barriers and laughter, will teach you so much. You’ll learn that we’re all the same, and you’ll appreciate our differences even more. You’ll meet incredible people—geishas, priests and children—and you’ll share sake over tales you may or may not understand and a language universal to all: joy.

The food. The food. THE FOOD!

Dining is an amazing experience in Kyoto. Following ancient traditions, eat a delightful multi-course meal, called kaiseki. If you’re a vegan, you’re in luck. Kyoto is the vegan capital of Japan, and the options for a satisfying meal are endless. A visit here demands that you take risks with food, which, trust me, will be a great deal better than grabbing Mickey D’s from around the corner in Shibuya.

The stories you leave with

Of course, it’s also about what you take back with you. Your experiences will be more valuable than any picture or souvenir, and your friends will be enthralled hearing about a world so different from our own. Your tales will be full of “I met a Buddhist monk watering his plants on the steps of the Kibune Shrine and we shared a moment of peace as we stared across the landscape together” instead of “A harried bike messenger knocked me over while I was on my way to the Japanese Louis Vuitton store.” (However, nobody would blame you if you wanted to take a selfie with your new monk friend. Worlds will always continue to clash.)

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