Four years ago, Josh and I stopped exchanging Christmas gifts and decided to take a trip instead. For our 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 sunset 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 and experiences that we shared. I love this tradition that we have started and I hope we can continue it forever.

What is Christmas like in Japan?

A lot of people asked what Christmas is like in Japan. It is not a national holiday so most places are open but some places have holiday hours. They do love Christmas however and you can find Christmas markets in the bigger cities that mimic European Christmas markets with gifts, gluhwein (warm mulled wine with spices) and tons of food. 

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 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 brought out 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 eventually.

Ippodo Tea

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. I took some video of them making us tea you can view it in my Instagram Highlights under Kyoto.

Kinkaku-Ji aka The Golden Pavilion and The Bamboo Grove

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 but we didn’t make it so I was excited to finally go. It was even better than I 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 which is beautiful but it is best to go really early as it gets busy and is so much more magical to walk through when it’s empty. Here is a photoshoot I did there if you want to see what it looks like when its empty.


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 a vintage Barbour coat and then we had one of my favorite meals I have ever had in Japan! They also have an incredible vegan tiramisu.


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 is a really good coffee shop with locations around the world.

Yasaka Pagoda aka Hokan-ji Temple

This pagoda is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Kyoto and is a great place to come take pictures.

Kyoto is such a beautiful city and I know we will always remember this Christmas together. We also booked an incredible 100 year old house to stay in, here are some photos of us in the backyard.

And here is our cute little Kokeshi doll that we brought back home to remember this trip!

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