Enchanting Kyoto

The Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 2 hours and twenty minutes. It runs every few minutes and its reliability is legendary. Spotlessly clean (of course). The only scary bit are the short stops it makes at stations along the way. You are warned to be ready to get off speedily as the train stops for about 3 minutes. And when the Japanese say ‘three minutes’, they mean THREE MINUTES. You have to be PREPARED!

TheEye was terrified  standing by the door quaking as the train approached Kyoto station, wheelie case at the ready.

Taken out of a dirty train window at hight speed on the way to Koto.
Carpet of leaves.
Kyoto’s very grand and impressive theatre. 

Kyoto has changed since TheEye first visited in the 70s. It is top of any tourists ‘must-see’ list and has inevitably become more commercial. Large hotels, high-rise developments, and a mass of souvenir and expensive antique shops. Despite this, Kyoto still retains its unique charm, with narrow streets, mysterious alleyways, original wooden houses and a sense of mystique. Geisha girls in the Gion area are ‘not what they used to be’ but you still see a few scuttling in the evenings, dressed in traditional kimonos, make up and hair ornaments. Cyclists ride on the pavements, kamikaze-style, intent on running down anyone or thing in their path. You have to watch where you go and not get distracted.

Apart from the ‘trophy temples’, such as The Ryonanji, Kinkakuji, Higashi, Hongashi, Kiyomizuder and so on, there are numerous equally lovely small temples with stunning gardens.

Geisha Girl in Gion district of Kyoto.
Geisha bar seen through a window.

The Enoji Temple

Set in a garden with zen rocks and stone arrangements. Peaceful and contemplative.

The weather was unseasonably warm (Global Warming?) and the leaves were still in full autumn glory in a radiant palette of red, amber, and deep orange. A joy to behold. 

Every detail is perfect

Trampling round temples is exhausting work – nothing like 40 winks to get you started again.

Nishiki Covered Market

Pickles both recognisable and…well, you tell me!
Not sure if he is a satisfied customer or the chef, but it’s a pot of stewed beef gristle!! A great delicacy apparently. Count me out.

Nishiki food market stretches for three streets and the produce is incredibly fresh and tempting. TheEye wished she had a kitchen to cook some of the amazing fish, vegetables, and fruit. Everything is seasonal and canny buyers were tasting before purchasing. Lots of eating going on and clearly where school kids congregate for lunch. There are also shops selling hand-made pottery, souvenirs, incense, and so on.

A delicacy if you like bony salty dried fish.

Torokko is a small, rather nondescript town. Its claim to fame is the station where you catch the Romantic Train. It’s full of rather awful cafes and trinket emporiums. Charcoal bread seems a great speciality. TheEye was not tempted by the plastic model of a charcoal hamburger!

Strolling along – how to combine tradition and style. What about the shoes?

Station platform all dressed up for Christmas.

All aboard the Romantic Railway!

Sadly we chose the only rainy day of our trip to visit the bamboo forest and gardens of Arashiama travelling on the Romantic Train. Not quite an accurate description of this toy train jammed to the gills with Japanese tourists pushing and shoving, taking selfies. But the short trip passed through some gorgeous scenery – rivers, bamboo forests, beds of moss, and  trees with leaves of exquisite colours.   

Love the colour of these stones particularly washed with rain
(but hideously slippery and dangerous)

Despite the rain, the Ōkōchi Sansō gardens were Japanese aesthetic at its finest. They were the former weekend home of a famous Japanese film star in the 20s. Even the stones glistening with rain are works of art. And to make it worth the longish walk, taking care not to slip and fall, there was the welcome reward at the end of the trail: a cup of green tea and a small cake with a chestnut filling sitting in the tea house overlooking bamboo trees and a carpet of moss.

You don’t get more civilised.

Well worth 1000 Yen and the tea and cake were an added bonus.
A blanket of moss, trees and stone path.

Caught in a serious downpour, we couldn’t linger long in the bamboo forest, but it was a wonderful experience being surrounded by these giant trees.

Luckily, we found a taxi and it was a pleasure to drive back to Kyoto in a warm car.

Umbrellas at the ready – a deluge in the bamboo forest.

A  short, but action-packed few days.

TheEye loves Kyoto. It’s a gem and there are always pleasant surprises everywhere you turn. Just be careful not to get mowed down by a determined old person on a bike. He or she will wait for no one!

Bye Bye Kyoto!

5 Comments

  1. Kyoto was my favorite town on my only visit to Japan. Your article brought all the memories back. Beautiful.

  2. Thanks so much for such a diverse set of pics. It makes me want to go back to Japan- weird & wonderful & full of beauty.

  3. Wonderful pictures, such fun. I love your humour.

    It makes me want to go back to Japan immediately.

  4. You seem to have captured the atmospherics.
    It is all so foreign and quite different and yet perfectly familiar!
    Thanx for reminding me of the magic.
    What a great way to welcome in the new year.

  5. You seem to have captured the atmospherics.
    It is all so foreign and quite different and yet perfectly familiar!
    Thanx for reminding me of the magic.
    What a greatwayto welcome in the new year.

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