I don’t think my heart was prepared for all the beauty of Kyoto. I really connected with the city, and felt at ease during our visit there.
After a quick trip on the bullet train from Hiroshima, we arrived at our hotel and unpacked in our suite. We were really spoiled with our accommodation at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. I know sometimes a room is just a room, but when you are travelling with 3 small kids, it’s nice to have some of the extras included that a 5 star hotel offers.
The children slept in a separate tatami room in the suite, and every night the staff would come in and prepare the futons and doonas on the beautiful straw room floor. The smell of the straw tatami was sublime. James and I had a double bed each which was a welcome change after we had tiny, single beds for over a week in Tokyo.
The city is famous for its impressive list of shrines and temples, over 2000 in total. On our 1st night, we decided to have an early dinner in the hotel and the kids enjoyed fresh wood fired pizza while I relished in a plain salad, something I had been craving for weeks after eating rice and noodles.
We decided to tackle the most famous temple first, Kiyomizu-dera, translation, the Pure Water Temple. It is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Buddhism but formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO Heritage Sites.
We hiked 2kms from our hotel to the gates of the shrine which then involved an 800m hill climb up a narrow little street with cars and tourist buses whizzing past. Add the humidity and lack of breeze to the mix and by the top of the hill, we were all covered in sweat but were rewarded with beautiful views over the city.
The shrine was so unbelievable crowded with tourists and school children, it was hard to appreciate the surroundings.
We were swarmed by local Japanese girls who wanted to look at the children and take photos. After 2 weeks in Japan, this didn’t phase the kids all too much.
At the temple, James and I blessed each other and the children and asked for good health and safety for the duration of the trip. It was so beautiful, I really think I could adapt many of the buddhist traditions and beliefs into my life.
Later that afternoon, I ventured downtown to the shopping district and discovered my favourite shop in Japan. An amazing boutique store named ‘Loft’. I bought some really great stationary here and they have reasonably priced make-up, clothing and home wares too.
One afternoon, I took Abi to the Geisha/Maiko photo studio to be dressed in traditional Japanese threads. She looked absolutely stunning and was so graceful and mature as 3 woman twirled her, draping her in layers of cloth then finally adorning a red kimono with wig and props. I shed tears as she posed quietly for her photos. Once the session was completed, she beamed during the taxi ride home
One night, we walked along Pontocho Alley, a gorgeous narrow street filled with private Geisha houses, bars, clubs and restaurants overlooking the canals. Most had no signage and we assume only the locals knew what was where. Red lanterns swayed in the breeze and lights lit up the darkened side alleys filled with cats and chefs on break.
Imagine living here and being spoiled with such beauty and romance. More to come from Kyoto.