All about Kyoto, Gion Corner, & 32 Kinds of Foods
Going to Kyoto
How would I describe Kyoto? At this point in my 28 years of life, I have been there about 3 times. If I were to describe the top moments I remember in this traditional yet touristy city, I would say Gion Corner, kaiseki food, Nishiki Market, expensive ryokans, capsule hotels, lot of temples (some beautiful, others not so much), tea ceremony classes, burnt ramen, and Arashiyama (a whole different story but kind of like a suburb of Kyoto).
There will be many, many more opportunities in Kyoto for all of these below categories. More than I will ever be able to list. So I will only share what I both have experienced and do recommend.
Need self guided walking tour routes? We got you covered here at One Green Bicycle.
2800 yen admission, You can watch several aspects of Japanese traditional culture such as maiko's dance at Gion corner, court music, Japanese harp, comic play, puppet play, flower arrangement, and tea ceremony. show times are 6 and 7p, to get here use Kyoto city bus no. 206
Best tea ceremony with great Japanese teacher who speaks excellent English, take Kyoto city bus 100 or 206 to kiyomizu-michi, 2000 yen fee, tea ceremony starts every hour, on facebook at camellia.kyoto and responds quickly, free wifi, may pay by credit card
Places to Go
After you’ve descended Mt Otowa’s Kiyomizu-dera, through the winding streets of Higashiyama and finally to Maruyama park.... continue West just a little more and you’ll run straight into ‘Gion’, Kyoto’s living and breathing Geisha District, where on any given moment you are likely to see a pair of Geisha or Maiko shuffling across the street. In this area, you can visit the ‘chaya’ (tea house) where you will be entertained by a Geisha, however, be warned it can be expensive.
Like the Byodo-in, the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion) was also a former residence from the age of extravagance which was then converted into a temple. However, as you may already know, the Kinkakuji has the unique feature of having the exterior of its two upper floors completely covered in gold leaf, and with the very top floor's interior completely gilded as well.Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to enter nor even get close to the temple, you must stand far off at a considerable distance. This is due to tightened security.The admission is 400 yen and there is a tea house where you can enjoy some matcha (green tea) and a snack to add to the experience.
open 8a-5p, use city bus 50, 55, or 59 or tourist bus 20, I think the admission fee was 500yen
This is the iconic shrine with orange gates that line a long pathway loop up a mountain with lots of sights along the way. No entry fee, just be willing to hike and have an umbrella handy.
Starting at Kiyomizu-dera, and taking the Sannenzaka Stairs down you begin your journey on the most picture-esque and quintessential 'Japanese' walk you can imagine (especially if it is in the spring time and the cherry blossoms are abloom)This walk starts in the Mountain of Otowa and takes you through winding streets all the way down to the city at Maruyama Park.You'll find the street (although it is for pedestrians only) lined with shops and restaurants, all of the traditional character. If you think of Takayama's Old Town but more intimate and on winding descending streets you'll get the idea.
Foods to Eat
Kaiseki Food at Gion Nanba
One of my favorite kaiseki meals. It’s tiny and quiet, but fun to sit at the counter and watch the chef artfully prepare your meal. There is no menu, but the chef was so kind to show us a cooking dictionary so he could communicate each course with us. There’s no meat here, but definitely fish.
*Most of these must see spots are cleverly incorporated into our self guided walking tour in Kyoto. Take a look!*
Awesome eating experience! No English was spoken or written, but if you point to a course menu they will give you a great sushi experience! 5/5 star, but only authentic Japanese food available here. I also learned about an old Japanese theory that physical health required eating a diverse 32 kinds of foods every day. No wonder there are so many different pieces to an authentic meal from Japan.
Somen at Omen Kodaiji
1150-2150 yen prices, open 11-2100 daily, I ate here with a few friends for lunch and really enjoyed the traditional and interactive atmosphere.
I know it sounds silly but watching them put your ramen ablaze in the kitchen is quite the experience. And the flavor itself is actually very good too, although in America we might use the word smoked. But be sure to get your name on the list and wait outside for a bit. I only was one person so I got in pretty quick, about 25 minutes. Price is very reasonable.
Where to Sleep
A very long history for this ryokan and provides an authentic ryokan experience. However, the cost is pretty high. Some packages provide kaiseki cuisine which increases the prices but as you can see in the picture below, they make it fun. I would probably not go back again because of the price but it's worth one night for the experience and great location near Gion.
cost is pretty high. Some packages provide kaiseki cuisine which increases the prices but as you can see in the picture below, they make it fun. I would probably not go back again because of the price but it's worth one night for the experience and great location near Gion.
For single travelers and friends, this friendly capsule hotel gives you a very Japanese-only experience while saving your money for other food or travels. For couples, however, it is definitely not a very romantic setting. The location is good and right next to the restaurant, Anji, which I mentioned above.
Did I get you excited to visit Japan but still unable to go? That's okay, take the first step by hosting a Japan Prayer Night.