Kyoto is…

I like to choose a soundtrack to each blog to accompany the writing. I try to choose music that I feel captures the essence of or is linked to the theme I am writing about. If like me are moved to tears by music and would like to listen as you read please scroll to the end and press play. Enjoy 🙂

…Moving at a slower pace of life.

…A city both rustic and ancient, full of character and charm, its people exude warmth and kindness, its food as tantalizing as it can get.

…Bikes, bikes and more bikes. Vintage bikes, colored bikes, rustic bikes, bikes with keys in the wheels, unlocked bikes that no one steals, bikes in doorways and bikes parked in front of garages.

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…Tiny, brightly-colored, square shaped cars framed by rectangular garages.


…A network of backstreets and side streets at the center of which is the Nishiki market. Overwhelming sights and smells that greet you as you wander through this incredible maze. Observing ‘things’ that you couldn’t possibly identify that are supposedly edible, also what looks like some live eels swimming in a bucket of water. Nishiki is a seemingly endless network of shops selling everything and anything you could possibly want or need and a lot of things you never knew you wanted. Entire stores dedicated to selling socks that separate your toes. It seems this is the place to pick up those fridge magnets/postcards/key chains or whatever other memorabilia you like to collect whilst travelling.

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….Temples, temples, shrines and temples. More than 1000 dotted throughout the city. Too many to name. Impossible beauty. Listening to monks chanting during a traditional Shinto ceremony. Getting lost among the countless vermilion torii gates of the ancient Fushimi Inari temple.

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…Watching huge snowflakes fall over the Golden Pavilion, the boldness of which stands out against the grey backdrop of the winter sky. Noticing the sun hovering over the pavilion roof desperately trying to break through the thick grey clouds. Getting introspective while sitting crossed legged on a heated mat, drinking green tea matcha and looking out over the grounds watching as the snow continues to fall.

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…Imagining what the sights would look like when framed by a backdrop of autumn colors or cherry blossoms, each season bringing a different spectrum of color.

…Drinking pints of beer at the local Izakaya (a casual establishment somewhere between a bar and a restaurant where locals go to eat and drink). It doesn’t have an English name so you identify it by the symbols. According to your guesthouse owner this is the best local spot around for beers and sushi. As you walk in, you instantly notice the smoke around you and are swiftly transported back to the pre-2007 smoking ban era. Just as quickly you’re back in the room and you observe that the bar is full of groups of men and ponder why there are no women accompanying them, or groups of women alone? Greeted by a friendly face you use the limited Japanese you have to order beers and a few appetizers. Trying quite possibly the tastiest salmon and unagi sushi you’ve ever eaten in your life. Trying to figure out what to do with the eggplant tempura, cabbage leaf and sweet type of dark sauce (thicker than soy sauce) that’s put in front of you. Figuring out that you’re meant to dip the cabbage leaf in the sauce but wondering where the eggplant fits in or if they are even connected?

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…The experience of a traditional Japanese-style bath house (Sentō). Paying the 500 yen entry fee in exchange for some rubber shoes and a towel, entering the female side of the spa. Quickly realizing that this is not like any Japanese-style spa you have visited in the US and people do not wear swim suits here. Cringing while you strip off in front of total strangers only to realize no one cares. Finding this unexpectedly liberating. Warming up in the no less than 10 different baths of multiple different temperatures; Jacuzzi baths, a white-shaded milk bath, a brown-colored healing bath – its mineral of unknown origin, a rock salt bath/room, an ice bath, a sauna and a steam room. By the end of the experience you wish you could bathe like this every day.

…Realizing as you are writing this that you are running out of adjectives to describe this wondrous place. Admitting that your words are probably not doing this any justice so you will let the remainder of your photos speak for themselves.

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