Christmas in Kyoto

Four years ago, Josh and I stopped giving gifts. We had gotten married earlier that year and a few months before Christmas I was trying to remember what we had given each other the year before. I couldn’t remember so I had a thought, What if we do something every year instead of getting something? Josh was on board. So, for our first Christmas as a married couple we planned a ten day road trip through the southwest. We drove through Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California. We spent New Year’s Eve watching the sun set in Saguaro National Park, spent Christmas Day in Vegas at an amazing meal and Cirque du Soleil show, we spent the day after in Death Valley National Park and New Year’s Eve in Dallas. The following year was difficult to plan, we had just moved and Josh hadn’t been able to find out his holiday leave in advance so by the time we found out our days off, it was too late to book our dream trip. Instead, we booked 3 nights in San Francisco and a photoshoot with an amazing photographer. For our third Christmas, we left on Christmas morning for Tulum and spent an incredible week there. And this year we took a trip up to Kyoto. 

When we look back at all the Christmas’s we have spent married, we are looking back on amazing memories in new and exciting places. We are looking back at experiences we had together. There are no gifts to forget, just time together. I love this tradition that we have started and I hope we can continue it forever. 

So without further ado, here is what we did in Kyoto… 

We decided to drive this time after a rough trip in the summer when we took public transportation. We got to Kyoto in the early evening and our first stop was Ippodo Tea. As we were walking over, we saw this cute little shop so we decided to step inside. I don’t know the name of it, but here is a pin for those people that had asked and I included pictures of their business card below. They have these cute little gift boxes that you can buy and different options (candy, tea, etc) of things to put inside of them. The woman was so nice and helpful and she gave us tea while we shopped. We picked out a couple of prints to hang in the house and made plans to return. Unfortunately, it was closed on the day that we wanted to go back so we didn’t end up buying all the things we wanted to but we will definitely go back. Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan so most places are open but some places had holiday hours.


Next we went to Ippodo Tea. It’s one of the oldest tea houses in Japan. At the store you can have some tea at the café, or you can try some tea before purchasing. We tried some matcha and sencha and they were both fantastic. You can order tea online even if you aren’t located in Japan! I wish I knew about this place earlier because I was always trying to find good matcha when I was in the states. We ended up buying a matcha set and a few bags of Sencha. We will definitely be ordering more from this place. They also give you instructions on exactly how to brew different kinds of tea.

The next morning we got up early to see Kinkaku-ji which is also called the golden pavilion. This was on our list for our August trip and we didn’t make it so I was excited to finally go. It was ten times better than I even expected. From the pictures I had seen it looked pretty, but in person it is absolutely incredible. It’s a Buddhist temple and one of the most popular sights in Japan. The top two floors of the temple are covered in gold leaf and it reflects so beautifully against the water. We were seriously amazed at how beautiful it was in person. We went to the bamboo forest after but I wasn’t that impressed with it. Maybe because it was busy, maybe because I love our little bamboo forest near out house but we didn’t spend long there before moving on. 


We spent a lot of time just shopping and exploring different areas. For lunch we stopped at Mumokuteki. It has a vegan café upstairs and a vintage store downstairs. Josh bought an amazing vintage Barbour coat and then we had one of my favorite meals I have ever had in Japan! 

We spent our next morning in the Higashiyama area. We stopped at % Arabica Coffee first and then walked around and did some shopping. This is one of my favorite areas in Kyoto. There are tons of beautiful, old buildings and little shops. 

% Arabica Coffee

They just started offering an almond milk latte!

Our cute little Kokeshi doll that we found in one of the shops!

It was a pretty quick trip but we got to do all the things we missed in August. Kyoto is such a beautiful city and I know we will always remember this Christmas together.