A trip to Kyoto is like travelling back in time – back to the golden age of a past era of Geishas, tea ceremonies and life at court. Even today, it is not uncommon to see women strolling through the old, picturesque streets in colourful, traditional attire. I’ve shared my experiences of Kyoto in this Japan travel diary:
Info: We stayed at Jiyu-Jin guesthouse, close to the railway station Kyoto. Pretty basic, but it was clean, central and the staff was friendly and understood basic English. I can recommend it for travellers who do not want to spend to much on accomodation and prefer to do most of their sightseeing by foot. Picturesque kamo river and Pontocho district are ony a stone’s throw away.
Kamo river and Pontocho
Sitting at the riverside, drinking a cold beer and enjoying the summer breeze – that’s what you can enjoy at kamo river. We were lucky to see a night market on the first day we arrived in Kyoto. Vendors would sell food and knickknacks in this vibrant atmosphere.
A bit further up the riverside, the street is full of restaurants which are beautifully decorated with Japanese lampions and with a view on the river (try to dine in one if these places!). Also, this district is very nice for a walk and offers many possibilities to enjoy good food or drinks in a traditional yet hip environment.
I SAW PARADISE. Nishiki market is also called „Kyoto’s pantry“, and with great justice: the variety of pickles, sweets, fish and snacks is sheerly endless. I was in foodie heaven! My friend and I ate almost everything we could get our hands on. From kakinoha sushi or grilled mackarel to o-nigiri riceballs and fresh, ruby red tuna on a stick. There’s also a myriad of sweets which need to be tried by the curious tourist: from matcha mochi filled with azuki beans to little Japanese cream puffs, ice cream and other delicacies.
But the market area offers more than food: you can buy china with pretty patterns, souvenirs and – kimonos! I actually was just looking for a light bathrobe and ended up buying a white and blue yukata („simple“ cotton kimono, mostly worn in summer) and a BEAUTIFUL green kimono. What did I pay? Merely 120€, including the obi and bands you need to tighten it with. Apart from that, there are several pretty hip shops in the area where you can buy clothes, beauty products and shoes (ABC mart offers a cool range of sneakers – I got a white pair of canvas vans for little money which are just perfect for travelling).
Starting in feudal times, the old geisha quarter has had a long history. A history of tea houses, kabuki theaters and also some redlight entertainment. This charming district on the east bank of kamo river has kept the charming vibe of many centuries until today. Japanese, no matter if old or young, still visit Gion wearing their light summer yukatas. And you can still indulge in the old arts like clay pottery or a tea ceremony.
Before our arrival in Japan, we had booked a tea ceremony at Camellia. The tea ceremony master explained all elements of the preparation of a proper cup of matcha in English. Very interesting! At the end, we even got to make our own cup! Of course I had to buy the equipment to make my own proper matcha at home soon. After that, we took a walk through the old streets and checking out the tiny shops.Of course there are also a handful of temples and shrines in this area. Strolling through Gion was one of the most wonderful travel experiences ever!
Daytrip to Lake Biwa in Otsu
Wanna see a big lake? I mean, a really big lake? Then you should check out Biwa-ko in Otsu. With a total mass pf 674sq km it’s a quite an impressive amount of water they have there.
Take the train for approx. 20 minutes from Kyoto station to Otsu station which is included in the JR pass. You could take a boat tour there, but unfortunately, we did not have time to do that so we just went to see Mii-deru, an impressive temple complex situated in a breathtaking garden. This place must be perfect in autumn when leaves are golden and red.
Kyoto is one of the most charming places I’ve ever been to with its relaxed aura and long history. I will definitely come back one day to see more. Do you have any Kyoto travel tips? I’d love to hear them – please share your experiences with us: