I have spent my university days in Kyoto and have lived a few years after I graduated.
Out of all the places I’ve been to around the world, Kyoto is one of my favorite and special cities.
I will be talking about the 3 reasons why I love this city and will be introducing to you probably the best way to access these aspects by hiring a volunteer guiding club run by students of the city.
1. It’s Historical
As you already know, Kyoto is one of our most historic towns.
Our historic buildings in Kyoto weren’t affected by World War II as much as other major cities were, so we could still enjoy and learn a lot of history behind them.
2. The teachings from the temples
Out of all the places in the world, my favorite place to visit is Ryoanji. I come every now and then to reset myself, maybe at least once every 2 years.
What fascinates me about Kyoto and Ryoanji, for example, is that it has things that show you the teachings you should follow that have been treasured from generation to generation.
For example, Ryoanji has a “tsukubai” which is a traditional washbasin that has 4 of our Kanji letter characters that represent “吾唯足知”（ware tada taruwo shiru) It means “I know how to be contented.”
Can you see that the 4 characters are all has a square shape in each character □？That is represented in the tsukubai.
The rock garden that made this temple, Ryoanji so famous has a similar purpose.
It has a total of 15 rocks, but from every angle it is designed so that you would only be able to see a maximum of 14.
This is telling you “to not stop learning. You have to keep trying to improve yourself to be able to see the 15th rock (which will never happen), but make sure to also be happy with what you have, which is the 14 rocks you are seeing.”
For me, it was tough to be happy with the present especially in my 20’s, so I would come here to chill my mind and understand that being happy with the present but trying to improve on the present is most important.
3. Kyoto is also a student town
I spent my university days in Kyoto, but when I first found out that Kyoto is not only a historic town but a student town it amazed me.
38 universities are condensed into an 827.8 km² area of the city of Kyoto.
It is really interesting that many universities have developed in such a historical city, and students come from all over Japan to study here.
I’ve met many uni mates from all across Japan that were eager to know about our historical capital.
I have friends that became maiko (The first step to becoming a geisha,) or have decided to inherit local and traditional tea or market businesses that have been passed on for centuries.
It’s funny how we just were these ordinary students craving for the best ramens or drinking in Kawaramachi. (city center of Kyoto)
But some of my friends are people that will be taking over a big responsibility of protecting our tradition and to still fit the modern world.
Many parts of Japan have difficulties working on the issues that arise from our aging society, but I would say that Kyoto attracts fresh, flexible and young talents very well.
And I was glad that I chose to study in Kyoto and was able to meet these students and learn about the culture and customs of our country by learning and studying together.
Recommended: Volunteer Guide Club available
The best way I learned our culture in Kyoto and what I would recommend for you to do is to hire a volunteer guide of students which is called Good Samaritan Club.
I am actually an alumnus of this circle and had a really good time being part of it, so I really want more people to know about this group of samaritans.
The group consists of students from mainly 3 universities in Kyoto.
They are volunteer guides that would help you get around Kyoto.
You will book a guided tour, and an assigned tour guide will help according to what you want to see or experience in the city.
The members have a study group every week to learn about different temples, shrines and other highlights of the city and they would have the chance to present to you!!
It’s a good opportunity for the visitors to get around Kyoto easily and efficiently, and to learn the answers to the questions that you might have or that pop up during your visit.
You would be covering their transport fee (usually 500 yen for the bus day pass + no more than 1000 yen if you want to go outside of the 1-day bus range)and a lunch (mostly around 1000 yen)
This I would say is a budget investment as the Kyoto transport system is complex at first and needs a good amount of time to get used to.
Most temples and shrines are tied up with the club, so the guides get free access to get in.
So you will be only paying for your entrance fee which helps!!
You will actually be helping them as well
I also really want to encourage to hire them because they will be really happy when you do.
As you might have realized or have been told, Japanese people do not have the best speaking skills when it comes to English. So many are hard working students that want an opportunity to improve on their English.
So by hiring them, you will notice that they work really hard to plan your Kyoto trip to be as memorable as possible, and I think the reviews from TripAdvisor tell it all that it’s a win-win.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?