Kyoto, Japan (central & western districts)
My exploration of western Kyoto (Arashiyama area) began at Otagi Nenbutsu Ji – a short bus ride north of Arashiyama – which is a little known temple on the outskirts decorated with more than 1200 Buddhist statues, most of which are more cartoonish than solemn.
The walk back to Arashiyama along Saga-Toriimoto preserved street showcases many Meiji Period (1868-1912) machiya houses, many of which are now shops and restaurants.
Whilst it was all drab and grey in most places with the heavy snow season looming, it was pleasing to still see the lush green bamboo forests around Arashiyama, with the creaking sounds of stretching-bending of bamboo in the icy breeze. Brrr freezing…
And what do you know… it starts snowing when we arrive at a Tenryu-ji (heavenly dragon temple)!
As it was at the beginning of winter, the usual river cruise services west of Arashiyama had halted to my disbelief, so only a few pictures from the riverside.
Last but not least: central Kyoto, is abound with amazing eateries from the casual to the high end kaiseki / michelin starred restaurants. Don’t miss out on tea ceremonies, taking photos with Geisha, rubbing shoulders alongside locals at Nishiki market, exploring the many old streets scattered around including Ponto Cho (a small cobble alleyway running one block west of Kamo river).
It wasn’t hard to spot the occasional geisha strolling along the streets of Gion. They stood out like blood roses on snow. Wonder how long it takes to don all that makeup and embellishments? [correction: the pair of pretty geisha are in fact tourists dressed up as Maiko. What trickery!]
Definitely make sure you check out Nishiki market (it is more like an undercover shopping street sprawling across 5 blocks, running parallel to Shijo Dori). Don’t expect to buy anything, but be sure to try lots of things =).
Ordering food from a vending machine.
Participating in a tea ceremony; or at least visiting one of the many tea stores to try out all their tea *ahem* for free, until you decide to spend $100 to bring them back to Oz – is a must. P.S. in case you have mistaken, dumplings were not part of the tea ceremony…
P.S. stay tuned for the final chapter: food highlights in Kyoto.
In the mean time check out my other travel posts in Japan: