we took a couple of days out of our week to visit kyoto – so worth it – only 2 hours on the bullet train, and although touristy, it shows how life in Japan was like before high tec buildings. kyoto is small compared to tokyo, just walk through the old streets, taking in all the handicrafts and shrines – ignore the souvenir tat and girls dressed up as geishas for the day and think that you are living in the past. there are still lots of women dressed in japanese traditional kimono as part of their daily routine, which is beautiful to see.
we stayed in a typical inn, sleeping on futons on tatami mats- sharing a japanese bathroom – it was a calming and enjoyable experience. ishihara inn has been run by Hiroko Ishihara for the past 50 years and has been sensitively retained to preserve the 1960’s traditional japanese design. its the favourite hotel of the japanese film director Akira Kurosawa.
there are so many shrines and temples to choose to see, some of them are incredibly busy, but there are so many local ones that are beautifully preserved. kiyomizu temple is very busy, but offers great views over kyoto and was founded in 780. we went to the ryoanji temple, especially for the tofu lunch – all specialities of tofu, absolutely delicious. we ate dinner in the geisha bar district in a family style restaurant, home cooked food served to us in our own room – as though it was your own private dining room.
i didn’t realise how much food and its products are regarded so highly in japan – methods and traditions passed down – you will notice that there are a lot of older japanese, 70 years plus, still cooking, preparing and serving you food. not to be missed is the covered food market, teramachi – an endless arcade of specialities – from fish products, crackers, sweets, to culinary pots and pans. it took us more than an hour and half just walking through, sampling an amazing array of typical japanese foods. this lead you to another arcade filled with more artisan shops – in particular calligraphy and stationary, sweets and biscuits. its difficult to come away without purchasing something .