Tokyo is cooler, hipper and more happening. It's the epitome of urban excitement, possibly even on par with New York City. But having OD'd on cool, hip, and happening in the Big Apple in the '90s and in Buenos Aires and Bangkok this century, I no longer place as high a premium on those qualities. Perhaps that's why I can prefer Melbourne over Sydney or Jerusalem over Tel Aviv or Woolloomooloo and Potts Point in Sydney over Newtown. It's not all about the urban hustle...or being on trend.
Concrete jungles wear me out after a while. I know there's nature in Tokyo, having witnessed it firsthand. But every major city has parks, trees, and more rural outskirts...sometimes a river even runs through it. Nature in Tokyo, though, feels almost incidental to city life. It's there if you look for it, but it's so far removed from the pulse, from the figurative heart of Tokyo.
In Kyoto, nature is built into the city. Whether walking along the Kamo River or strolling down the Philosopher's Path (billed as one of Japan's 100 greatest roads) at the foot of the mountains that frame Kyoto, the urban experience is a natural one, too.
And that's the thing about Kyoto. I'm getting the urban experience that I live for (I will always be a city boy at heart, a true urbanite), but I'm getting something more, something I haven't really gotten in many of the Asian metropolises that I've visited. I'm also getting natural beauty, much of it breath-taking.
Kyoto is beautiful in a way Tokyo isn't. And at this point in my life, when it comes to location location location, aesthetics will trump vibe every time.