Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. This legacy has left Kyoto with so many Buddhist temples, palaces, and gardens. Because of this legacy the thought of Kyoto probably conjures images of traditional Japanese streets, wooden buildings, people walking around in getas (wooden sandals), pagodas, and geisha's. Well... if this is what you're expecting you may be a bit disappointed. While I did see many traditional looking building on my train ride to Kyoto, once in the city you'll see that as with every other big city in Japan it is a modern city. You can still find these traditional images, but you might have to hunt a little bit.
Getting around Kyoto wasn't really easy. You'll need to take the Bus or cab, which can get very expensive. I decided not to stay in Kyoto since I liked Osaka so much, so I made two trips to Kyoto. While I was in Tokyo one of the hotel workers who's hobby was Japanese history suggested to me my top priority in Kyoto is Nijo Castle, not the Imperial Castle which he said was a little bit boring. Heeding his advice on the first day I saw Nijo Castle and the Zen Garden Ryoan-ji. I didn't make it to the Palace because it closed by the time I finished two sites.
I found this garden as I was walking from the JR station to Nijo Castle. It's quite small and isn't a tourist attraction at all. But I thought this small garden was quite beautiful even if it is not considered a top draw in Kyoto.
Nijo Castle was built by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and took 23 years to build. From 1603-1616 it was Ieyasy's Kyoto residence. It was never used in defense and rarely visited by Shogun after the mid 1600s. However it was at this castle that Emperor Meiji received the resignation from the last Tokugawa Shogun in 1867.