One aspect of my recent travel to Japan which is dear to my heart: our overnight trip to Kyoto which was out there on my list of dream places to visit. Good thing it was barely one hour by fast train from Osaka and that the whole Kansai region was spared from the devastating earthquake that rocked Tokyo and the north (note: we flew to Japan two days after the big quake ~ sigh!)
It was almost dusk and mercilessly cold when we arrived in Kyoto. I said silently to myself: “You can never dress enough in this kind of weather….brrr!” I was freezing and it didn’t help that we had to find last-minute accommodations. A kind sushi-maker led us to Gion Hotel in the heart of the entertainment district. It was nice enough since it had a Starbucks on the ground floor, a shrine nearby and lots of specialty shops that Kyoto is known for. Great effort has been made in preserving their facade and structures, in keeping with the city’s image as an ancient, heritage town.
One thing that appealed to me: the city’s heady mix of the old and the new.
The old part of town, like Gion, is lined with traditional shop houses. Here, a lady grills sweet glutinous rice on a stick. We went to her because a number of people were lined up to taste her specialty.
The modern side of town is dotted with tall buildings and big department stores like Takashiyama. An ancient city like Kyoto also houses the world’s most prestigious luxury brands.
The sight of these two ladies greeted us as we set foot in Gion. I didn’t know if they were real-life geishas or just playing dress-up. There were a number of kimono rental stores in the area.
Our real adventure would lie the next day when we would visit the temples like Kiyomizu-dera which are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list and form part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. This temple dates back to 798 AD.
I wish I saw more but there is too little that one can do in a span of 24 hours. In our case, our itinerary consisted of the following: explore the shopping areas, sample the dining, visit at least one temple and one shrine, and walk around the Nishiki Market for an insight into their culinary life.
I wish to be back again someday and stay longer!