It seems like the Tokyo/Kyoto combination is a fairly common one for people visiting Japan that are short on time. Thus, we had a ton of recommendations for Kyoto and it was on everyone’s “must see” list. This former capital city is known for many things – kaiseki dining, rich gardens and of course, geishas.
Since we were in Japan at the height of Sakura mania all forms of lodging were booked up quickly and well in advance – we barely managed to snag an Airbnb rental for two nights (pro tip: book early in Kyoto if you’re going in March or April). Kyoto and Osaka (our next destination) are a quick 15 minute train ride on the Shinkensen (aka “bullet train”) so if we felt like we’d missed anything, we knew we could easily return.
Side note – the bullet train is such a great way to travel. The fact that it takes 15 minutes to travel the 56km between Kyoto and Osaka when it takes me at least 40 minutes (on a good day) to travel the 6km from my house to work on the TTC, kind of blew me away. We took the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and was its was such an easy trip – definitely recommend it!
On our first night we made our way over to Ippodo Tea to explore the world of matcha and do a tasting in their tea room. Ippodo has been making tea for three centuries (yes, you read that right) and their staff not only understand their company’s story, they are truly passionate about tea. Paul and I both opted for Kyoto-based teas and it felt like such a treat to try something grown so close by. I opted for a lighter blend while his is the more viscous tea below, which came with a really unique and delicious umami flavour.
Once we’d finished our tea for two (had to), we strolled through the city making our way towards Gion. The streets of Kyoto were bustling with tourists also heading to this area (while stopping to snap photos of Cherry Blossoms en route) and for good reason: walking around this this area is like stepping back in time. It’s full of old wooden houses, restaurants and tea shops. It’s also where you’re most likely to run across a Geisha. Gion is the birthplace of Geisha culture and while you can see Geishas in other parts of Kyoto and Japan, this area provides a magical backdrop for this chance encounter. We spotted one Maiko (a geisha apprentice) from a distance delivering flyers – there was something so quaint about this ornately dressed woman doing such a simple and mundane task while people nearby watched in fascination (and snapped some photos).
Up next: while we were in Kyoto we also made our way to Arashiyama to visit the bamboo forest and checked out the vermillion torii at Fushimi Inari – blog post coming soon!