"Even in Kyoto. Hearing the Cuckoo's Cry. I long for Kyoto." - Matsuo Basho
Gion is the infamous Geisha District of Kyoto, where many come in search for the elusive Maiko or Geiko. My meeting with one was pure coincidence. She came out of a black taxi right before me, as graceful and refined as one could ever be, even as others stopped to gawk at her. I managed to sneak a photo just in time.
2. Southern Higashiyama
And so the great temples tour of Kyoto begins. A visit to Kiyozumi-dera is a must, and marks the start of the full day walking journey of Higashiyama district. The exotic streets are ripe with stores selling Japanese souvenirs to both local and tourists alike.
3. Northern Higashiyama
The Temple Fever brought forth a journey through the Philosopher's Path at the end of the Sakura bloom. As beautiful as it was, it made me think just how much more glorious it would be at the height of Autumn. Surely, Kyoto must be experienced in all four of its season.
4. Northwest and Central Kyoto
An easy bus ride from the central station is the magnificent Golden Pavilion, perhaps best know as the poster child for the tourism board. Hounded by tourists and students alike, an early morning visit would mean less shoulder rubs and more breathing space to enjoy its manicured gardens. Though not as popular as the others, the palaces of central Kyoto deserves its fair share of praise.
5. Fushimi Inari
The many gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine is something special. You can choose to take a healthy hike up, or you could just hang around and buy goodies from the many stalls around.
A short train ride from Kyoto is the city of Uji, which is the place to buy green tea goodies, eat green tea soba and green tea soft serve. It was worth it just for the food, but the town also hides one of the most remarkable temples in Japan -- one that is featured in Japan's 10 yen coin!
From Uji, Nara is a short train ride and worth the visit if you fancy mingling with the Bambis and schoolchildren. It has its fair share of temples, and will probably take a whole day to experience it properly. Still, doing both Uji and Nara is probably your best bet if you have only a few short days in Kyoto. A word of warning: Don't bother the deers unless you have a roasted sweet potato hidden somewhere. They count your worth with sweet potato.
Again, another place worth devoting an entire day for. Lots of things to do, including the famed bamboo grove, and the temples and lakes. Very touristy even for the locals. Great place to get souvenirs and see young men peddling rickshaw services. Nice place to get food too!
(a) Which place was most memorable? Higashiyama
(b) Which place would I return to? ALL
(c) What about their culture did I like most? Their department store food offerings
(d) Best food? Green tea soba
(e) Where did I regret not spending more time? Arashiyama
(f) Where else will I go to the next time I'm there? Hime-ji
(g) What was my best buy there? Strawberries