After a couple of amazing days in Tokyo, we made our way to the Tokyo station to board the bullet train known as the Shinkansen. We both were expecting some kind of futuristic, ridiculously high speed train and were somewhat disappointed to find that it was just a pleasant and quick train ride. It was, however, the fastest and best way to get to our next destination – Kyoto.
|Many Japanese visitors to Kyoto opt to wear traditional attire.|
Our final stop of the morning was Nijo Castle – home to the last Shogun…
You aren’t allowed to take photos inside but my favorite part was the “nightingale floors” which were designed to squeak like a nightingale if anyone walked on them – this was to protect the shogun from ninjas trying to sneak into the castle.
|The stones are carefully placed – each one has a significance.|
After our lunch, we headed over to the Nishiki market – a covered arcade several blocks long offering every conceivable Japanese delicacy, including ONE mushroom selling for over $100 USD!
After a detour through a department store which sold gorgeous silk kimonos and cotton yukata (and Emi’s assistance in helping me pick out a yukata to bring home), we headed to Gion – the district made famous by the “geishas” who call it home. Emi explained that the work geisha is not used in Kyoto – rather they are called geikos – translated to mean “women of art” and the young apprentices are referred to as maikos. Gion is a gorgeous historic area filled with boarding houses where the geikos live and “party houses” where they entertain.
|The wooden plaques on the door represent each geiko who lives in the house.|
We didn’t see any actual geikos or maikos but we did see several weddings…
Sadly, all good things must end, and it was time for sweet Emi to head home to her family. It was so wonderful to have made a new friend in Kyoto!
|Our wonderful guide, Emi|
|This is a picture of a photograph of Emi dressed for her traditional Japanese wedding.|
I hoped you enjoyed this glimpse into Kyoto…It was the highlight of our trip to Asia. As jam packed as our day was, there was SO much that we didn’t have time to see. Oh well…that is the perfect excuse to return to Kyoto soon!
Tips for Kyoto:
Hire a guide who will help you get from sight to sight, translate when necessary and explain the historical significance of each location. We used Windows to Japan – a luxury tour company based in Kyoto – I can’t recommend them enough!
Be respectful of the residents of Gion (geikos and maikos) – while it might seem like a fascinating tourist attraction to you, it is their home and livelihood.
Be prepared to remove your shoes at temples and shrines. Make sure you do not walk on the “interior” areas with your shoes on.
Next stop…the “lion city” of Singapore…