Kyoto…the quaint city with an unmistakable old-time charm. The beguiling beauty of Japanese culture comes to life and one must spend a few days here when you visit Japan. The cherry blossom season is such a cheerful time to be in Japan, the locals as well as the tourists have a happy spring in their stride. Striking a pose underneath the blossoms along Kamo River and especially at the Gion Tatsumi Bridge seen in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, to get all those perfect pictures and selfies clicked.
Visiting shrines and wandering around Gion, the heart of Kyoto famous as the entertainment district and houses many traditional arts is a real pleasure as it is really the place where all the buzz is, be it day or night!
The walking tour begins at the top of Shijo Street at the Yasaka-jinja Shrine or also called Gion shrine. The most revered Shinto shrine in Kyoto, the local people flock here for blessings for every special occasion. It also hosts the Gion Matsuri festival in July. Get a birds-eye view of the Shijo street dotted with traditional lanterns on either side and walk down all the way down to the river to discover some special treats on Shijo-dori.
A leisurely walk through the atmospheric Higashiyama district towards the Kiyomizudera Temple (which means ‘Pure Water Temple’) has many delights of the Edo period to offer en route. Wander the Kiyomizu-zaka street sampling all the local specialties like Matcha sweets and pickles or munch on a steaming hot bao, admiring local pottery, wooden handicrafts and other souvenirs. The photo opportunities and views from the top are tremendous….especially at dusk!
Witnessing a Japanese tea ceremony in a traditional tea house is a option you can take on and learn the finer aspects of Matcha tea making! It certainly is a real insight into the Japanese culture (dressing up in a Kimono and with the classic hairdo and flowers is definitely the “in thing ” here, so indulge yourself if you want !). Each step of the process of making it is meticulously explained; from the whisking motion of the bamboo brush to the three clockwise turns of the cup before you take a sip, every step must be perfect and followed to a tee in this tea ceremony. You can sample the green tea whilst eating Japanese sweets made from seaweed by your gracious hosts.
Experience a night walk past the merchant machiya houses through Gion with its side alleys lined with old preserved houses. Many of these are now restaurants that serve traditional Kyoto style kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine) and others are ochaya (teahouses) where guests are entertained by maiko and geiko. You can wander around hoping to catch a glimpse of a geiko or maiko or go for a traditional Maiko dinner show, another unforgettable experience of Japan.