Nestled in a valley in the Yamashiro Basin, lies the beautiful city of Kyoto. With such beauty all around, it is no wonder there are so many things to do in Kyoto.
While preparing for our trip to Kyoto, we were warned that it is incredibly hot there during the summer (and equally cold during the winter). Being from Texas, we weren’t afraid even though people compared it to the sweltering humid heat of Houston. Unfortunately for us, that description was far too accurate.
When we got off the train, our hope were high and we were ready to start our “short” walk to our hostel. Little did we know that we had actually passed it a few times – down a small alley – if you blinked, you were sure to miss it. By the time we were checked into our small (and too small to be quaint) hostel, we were all gross and sweaty from the oppressive humidity outside. Instead of sightseeing, we all stripped down to our skivvies, hung our gross clothes up to dry and napped. I might venture to say that Kyoto is more humid than Houston. Impossible? I think not!
After getting a wee bit of rest, we started out on the balmy, humid, Kyoto summer night.
A traditional tourist destination in Kyoto are the teahouses in Gion. Here, if you are patient and lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a geisha (or geiko, as they call themselves) darting into a taxi or escaping back into the teahouses. Should you decide to try your luck, it is best to keep your eyes peeled for the chaperons. You will usually see them walk outside and flag the taxi down right before the geisha climb in and quickly drive off (or vice versa).
After waiting around for a few hours and feeling like unwelcome paparazzi (but when are they welcome?) we were quite lucky to not only catch a glimpse of two geisha without their chaperon, but they were nice enough to pose for a photo for our travel mate (which unfortunately, in the hubbub of trying to catch them, our friend graciously forgot to put his focus back on auto, thus making not so attractive pictures).
Even if you don’t have the patience or luck to hunt for geisha, the Gion district is a wondrous sight all its own. We definitely recommend going to Kyoto, although, we’d advise that you do so during the cherry blossom season when it is much cooler.
Excited and absolutely stoked that we were able to capture some of the very few geisha left in the world, we decided to go out for a drink. There is this awesome “Stand Up Bar” in Kyoto where – you can guess – you stand up while drinking your beer. Nothing can prepare you for the hearty “irasshaimase!” that is said when entering the bar. I felt at home. While standing can be particularly troubling when you had been walking around all day, the cold refreshing Japanese beer made everything alright.
During WWII, Kyoto was rarely bombed (and taken off the list of possible atomic bomb targets) because it was the intellectual center of Japan. Because of this, the once former capital of Japan has remained one of the most traditionally intact cities in the country. Known for its kimono weaving and sake brewing, Kyoto also boasts over 2000 temples and shrines- our favorite being Fushimi Inari Taisha. This was one shrine that we had to go to.
The head shrine of Inari (the god of business) is easily recognizable from the thousands of orange and black torii lining the paths. Each of the torii were donated by a specific business so that they may be blessed with wealth.
There was so much to see and we barely touched the surface. Next time we find ourselves in Japan, Kyoto will definitely be revisited.