Kyoto

Takayama + Kyoto, Japan

We reached Kyoto via a night’s stop in Takayama, a mountain town where we (finally) biked through rice fields, hiked the surrounding hills and found a surprising nod to Americana.

Takayama’s old town is lined with wooden buildings from the Edo Period which look as if carved from one continuos piece of cypress. Some of these places have operated in the same way for centuries, while others hide “modern” surprises. At the back of one unassuming nicknack shop we discovered a tiny burger joint (with a garden) that quietly spun Johnny Cash and was covered with American relics

Also recommended: Breakfast at Cafe Don, a sweet spot for morning grub with a locals-only vibe; Sakura Guesthouse, a simple lodge where we spent the night, a short walk away from the historic Hida Village.

Takayama Hills

Takayama Hills

Takayama

Takayama

Center4Hamburgers, Takayama

Center4Hamburgers, Takayama

Center4Hamburgers, Takayama

Center4Hamburgers, Takayama

Artisan at Hida Village, Takayama

Artisan at Hida Village, Takayama

Kyoto, our next major destination was a sight to behold, meeting all of our inflated expectations. In many ways Kyoto felt more busy and bustling than Tokyo, and visitors to the city were especially apparent. So much so, that we spotted friends from Toronto on the street (we had no idea they were in Japan) and got over our shock with copious Asahis at Cafe Gaea(aka Rei’s bar).And while we preferred wandering through the stone-paved lanes of the eastern Gion, out of the way shops and tea houses, and smaller shaded temples (partly as a plot of stay out of the scorching sun), the big tourist destinations certainly had their charms. Infamous Pontocho Street sparkled at night, drawing visitors into its pricey establishments with red lanterns and promising smells; busy Kawaramachi, the main shopping drag, awed with stylish crowds and stores that shone like mirror-balls; The Heian Shrine was glorious at sunset; Nijo Castlestood firm with quiet splendour.

But at the Ryōan-ji rock garden and Kinkaku-ji golden temple the crowds were suffocating, overwhelming both the scenery and us. Far from zen, let’s just say that. On those days, the Kyoto Imperial Palace gardens offered a much-needed solace, so vast and lush that they were never too crowded or hot.

Kamo River, near Pontocho

Kamo River, near Pontocho (day)

East Gion, Kyoto

East Gion

Yasaka Shrine gate

Yasaka Shrine gate

The Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine

The Heian Shrine

Kyoto

Kyoto at dusk

Pontocho

Pontocho

Pontocho

Pontocho

Kawaramachi

Kawaramachi

Shijo Dori

Shijo Dori

Cafe Independents

Cafe Independents

Cafe Independents

Cafe Independents

Torontonians found, Rei's bar

Torontonians found, Rei’s bar

Kinkaku-ji

Kinkaku-ji

Kyoto

Kyoto residents

Ryōan-ji rock garden

Ryōan-ji rock garden

Ryōan-ji rock garden visitor

Ryōan-ji rock garden visitor

Giant Buddha at Ryozen Kannon

Giant Buddha at Ryozen Kannon

Philosopher's Walk

Philosopher’s Walk

Wooded shrine, near Philosoper's Walk, Kyoto

Wooded shrine, near Philosoper’s Walk, Kyoto

Kamo river

Kamo river, near Pontocho (night)

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Next time… More Kyoto: Our historic apartment in Arashiyama & a whole lot of Japanese calligraphy
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UnaTakayama + Kyoto, Japan

Comments

    1. Author
      Una

      Hello mbstrawn! In Kyoto especially, you’ll see quite a few women dressed in kimono. Since it is formal-wear, this probably means they are heading to a wedding, traditional ceremony or even a particularly fancy meal.
      Yukata (casual kimono) are also quite common in japanese-style hotels and onsen towns.

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