October 1st 2019 and another train trip – this time to Kyoto. We were getting very confident riding the Shinkansen and now that all signs are in Japanese as well as English it is much easier to find where you have to be and at what time. We had booked an ‘apartment hotel’ and found it on one of the main streets of Kyoto and within walking distance to the Gion district.
A small hotel with very friendly and accommodating staff, we found our apartment which, in reality, was a small double room with bathroom. A tiny kitchen was squeezed in and in order to make a sitting room, the bed folded up into the wall. It is ingenious how space is used in Japan!
Kyoto is known as old Japan – with quiet temples, peaceful gardens, shinto shrines and wooden houses. As well there are geishas in the Gion – or entertainment district – and today they are also very much a tourist attraction. We had a pre dinner drink by the river one evening and a young geisha introduced herself and sat with us for a photo before moving on to the next table!
Nevertheless it is lovely to see traditional dress and the colours are vibrant although how the poor women walk in the traditional shoes I will forever wonder. I am told they have to have one size too small – maybe that is why the steps are so mincing.
A highlight for us was walking the Path of Philosophy. We caught a bus to Nyakuoji-bashi where the Path starts. The walk itself only takes about half an hour and is named for one of its most famous strollers – a 20th century philosopher called Nishida Kitaro who is said to have meandered lost in thought along the path.
The path runs along a canal lined with cherry trees and colourful plants and tiny shops selling traditional paper, handicrafts, tea and porcelain are along the way. Beautiful houses with stunning gardens line one side of the canal and on the other are bench seats where people were sitting having their lunch or just meditating. It was all so peaceful.
Another highlight was a visit to the Nishiki Market which is covered and has a lot of weird and wonderful foods such as pickled vegetables, Japanese sweets, yakitori skewers, and tofu as well as knives and kitchenware. Souvenirs to take home from here include pickles, tea, sake, rice crackers – and if we were allowed, dried fish snacks. Sadly we cannot take those home but we enjoyed them whilst there!
The narrow pedestrian streets and wooden houses, colourful lanterns and elite restaurants and bars make the Ponto-cho area a pleasant place to walk in the evening.
Kyoto has something for everyone and there is so much to see and do that a return visit is very definitely required!