“Music saves the soul.” Play softly while you read.
Kyoto, Japan is one of the most interesting cities in my bucket list waiting to be stricken off, which I finally did last November of 2015. I took the Shinkansen from Odawara (the nearest bullet train station from my hotel in Hakone) and arrived Kyoto late in the afternoon. I reached Heian Shrine after the sundown and waited for my AirBnB host to fetch me. Oh my, was I surprised, my Kyoto AirBnB host, Kimberlye Kowalczyk (with western blood-line but born in Japan), is so pretty. . Her lovely flat – a traditional Japanese house if I may say – has the smell of wood and tatami mat that made my stay more than comfortable. Check her place out at https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/5785542.
And so I thought it was still too early to go to bed on my first night in Kyoto, I asked Kimberlye for attractions I can visit at night and luckily not all temples are closed after 6PM. In autumn season, some temples with lots of maple trees are illuminated at night hence people can still visit after the sunset. I have not studied my way around Kyoto yet so I asked Kimberlye how to reach destinations on foot on the first night. She lent me a map and told me all places I can visit during my 3 days and 3 nights stay. I got tired of walking on every night I fulfilled my wanderer’s lust for Kyoto but was more than energized and ready for the next day’s roaming. I visited temples and shrines and took lots of photos of the streets and people.
The imperial heart of Japan, with its awe-inspiring gardens and foliage, momentous shrines and temples, salivating food, and friendly people, what’s not to love in Kyoto? In no particular order in my itinerary, here are a few of the interesting spots I visited that will give you a deeper appreciation of Kyoto’s history, culture and religion.
Shijo Dori Street
Just across the Yasaka shrine is a long street of shopaholics’ haven. From cosmetics, to fashion apparels, to cafes and shops selling Japanese treats, this street is also worth visiting before you head to Gion or Pontocho alley if coming from Maruyama Park or Yasaka shrine.
This touristic street is surrounded by traditional Japanese infrastructures of tea houses, cafes, bars and restaurants. Gion is a well known location in Kyoto to spot Geishas. These artists are kinda evasive though. I saw 2 Geishas running fast and by the time I was ready to take a photo of them, they were already about to take a turn. Still, I think a glimpse of Geisha made my visit in Gion complete.
A narrow alley perpendicular to Shijo Dori Street is Ponto-cho alley that used to be a lane full of expensive restaurants. Now, a lot of affordable restaurants and bars have emerged and it has been one of the popular places for dining visited by tourists and locals alike. It looks like Gion but only narrower. You can also spot Geishas here if you’re lucky. If I’d be given a chance to live in Kyoto, I see Ponto-cho alley as my secret hide out like how I see Haji Lane in Kampong Glam, Singapore.
Rental of Kimono Near Kodaiji Temple
While in Kyoto, ladies should not miss the chance to try the traditional Kimono while wandering around the streets. Too bad, I went to Kyoto in autumn hence I could only wear the Kimono for a few hours as the cold weather was giving me chills. for around USD50 to USD100 you can choose the kimono print and quality of fabric and wear the whole outfit for a day. You can also top up additional USD30 if I remember correctly for several shots photoshoot around the area. I wore the Kimono for a sweet short walk around Kodaiji Temple, had breakfast in one of the tea houses around then came back to return it. I had a train to catch going to Osaka that day anyways so definitely I cannot wear it the whole day.