Posted in Culture, Events, Food, Photography, Travel

3 Must-See Places in Kyoto – Travelog #1: Kyoto

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*All photographs were taken by me.

Gion (祇園)

Summertime in Kyoto means you must definitely catch Gion Matsuri! Held for the entire month of July, the main attraction is Yamaboko Junkō  (山鉾巡行), which is a parade of various floats and people in fancy costumes. I was lucky to have caught both the former and latter parade!

Paraders starting off from Yasaka Shrine.

Huge float towards the end of the parade.
One of the many games available – fishing for a “fortune bag”.

Amazingly good ice cream from Kyosendo, which offers vanilla, green tea and half-half flavours. Even the biscuit thingy was sooo good!

Vanilla & green tea ice cream, uber delicious!!!

Other pleasant surprises included a comet (at least we thought it was a comet) and lots of street food!

We were lucky enough to see a comet falling!
Chocolate banana snack!
Dango from a very traditional-looking stall.

Although it is pricey, yuka refers to dining on a wooden platform overlooking the Kamo River. It is perfect for hot summers so don’t miss out on this authentic Kyoto experience!

Yuka restaurants along Kamo River.

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Arashiyama (嵐山)

Enjoy the feeling of “zen” at Tenryuji Temple, which is a spacious garden with gorgeous mountain views.

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Geisha or maiko?

I would recommend visiting this temple first as it is on the way to the picturesque Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The mozzies are pretty vicious so do protect yourself! Try climbing to the top of Mount Arashiyama for a gorgeous view! It can get quite dark in the evening so please be careful!

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Met Bunnyman who was wandering among the bamboo. (He was taking selfies!)

Married couples or lovers can make a wish at Nonomiya Shrine located within the forest.

Hopeful couples at Nonomiya Shrine.

Cycling isn’t recommended due to the sheer number of people, but you can hop onto a trishaw pulled by macho hunks if you’re tired.

Oozing with manliness. There are female trishaw pullers too!

Summer is also when the ancient art of ukai (鵜飼い) or cormorant fishing is available for display. Skilfully guided by the master, the cormorants would dip into the water and come up with a fish in their beaks.

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Rent a boat to see ukai up close or just peek from the riverside.

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Fushimi (伏見)

Kyoto has countless shrines and temples that are so rich in history and architecture, it is difficult to choose which ones to visit. Fushimi Inari Taisha is a more well-known one, with its characteristic senbon dōri (千本通り), known as “thousands of tōri gates”. Each tōri was erected to credit individuals and companies for their generous donations to the shrine.

Mesmerizing indeed!

The shrine god is Inari (稲荷), who takes on the appearance of a fox. It takes 2-3 hours to climb up to the summit and back, but there is a rest stop halfway up the mountain, known as Yotsutsuji intersection. Visitors can stop there to enjoy the lovely view of Kyoto and pose for photographs.

Fox- shaped wooden amulets to write your wishes. Unleash your creativity!

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Cultural Activities

I had the opportunity to experience several Japanese cultural activities, from the well-known tea ceremony to traditional Japanese theatre. It’s a great idea to sign up for cultural workshops to enrich your Japan vacation!

Ikebana (flower arrangement)

There’s so much theory behind ikebana (生け花)! This was the best arrangement by one of our group members. Instead of using both baskets to create two separate works, she placed the other basket at the side as a decoration. Isn’t it pretty?

Sado (tea ceremony)

We learned about proper etiquette for drinking tea, such as how to receive the cup, how to hold the cup etc. Some of the tea cups come with a special design at the bottom, which can only be seen after you are done drinking the tea. How cute!

Tea making demonstration.

Yatsuhashi making (Japanese sweets)

Yatsuhashi (八つ橋) is a cinnamon-filled, triangular sweet that comes in either soft or hard forms. We had the opportunity to our own yatsuhashi at a long-standing confectionery known as Otabe. It is relatively easy to make, so families with children can also sign up for this mouth-watering experience!

Buyo (traditional dance) in a kimono

With influence from kabuki and noh, buyo is a type of traditional dance which is closely associated with geisha. It was difficult to move around in our kimono, and you can’t help but feel demure and graceful!

Learning a “simple” dance. Not that simple at all!
Clearly the ladies loved their kimono!

Noh (Japanese theatre)

Noh is a type of Japanese play that makes use of masks, costumes and highly trained musicians and performers to tell mostly supernatural tales.

One of the masks worn during a noh performance. This is the face of an angry woman.

Please look forward to the second post, titled “Beyond Kyoto”, which will focus on day trips to bring you out of Kyoto!

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