Kyoto is said to be the place to visit old Japan – it is full of important shrines, gardens, old districts and geisha culture. So obviously, it’s right up my street, but probably the least attractive for the kids.
I had to curb my enthusiasm and pick one shrine, and I think I picked well. The Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine is renowned for its orange gates, and the kids surprised me by enjoying the experience as well. Apart from the eye-catching orange details on the shrine, the kids enjoyed washing their hands with the wooden ladles and ringing the bells of the shrine. But more surprisingly, they enjoyed going through the gated walkway. While it veers up the mountain, the gates are so close together that the route is quite shady and the slope is gentle. I thoroughly enjoyed my temple fix.
We had originally planned to go to the Railway Museum as it’s (largely?) indoors and we thought the kids would enjoy it, but we figured we’d done so many train trips already it probably didn’t make sense to get into stationary trains, or even moving ones – they have a steam locomotive ride you can take.
Instead we headed to the Gion area, where one can see pre-modern-style Kyoto buildings and where the geisha culture still exits (though pretty much only in the evenings).
I loved wandering around though it was really very hot in the afternoon sun, so we soon ducked into a little restaurant in a side street for lunch. Ironically, it was Italian food, but it turned out to be my best meal in Japan so far. The thing with the Japanese is that when they decide to do something, they excel at it (e.g. chocolate, pastries, whiskey, and now apparently Italian food). We had thin crust pizza, perfectly cooked spagetti with beef, mushroom, chives and a local pepper and a lasagna. The kids loved it as well. Apart from the kiddie bowls and the very gracious service in Japanese restaurants, they always serve chilled water. This is a surprise in Asia, where I had begun to think warm water with meals is the norm, but it did hit the spot.
On the way back to our hotel, we headed into the Kyoto Tower mall, mainly to buy headphones for the kids so they could use our phones in transit and on the flight back (Mimi has inherited V’s weird ears so that earplugs won’t sit in her ears), and we found a 150 yen shop (where everything is sold at 150 yen). I’d be meaning to buy a fan for ages because of the heat in Japan (and also in HK these days) and the fact that the station platforms in Japan are not airconditioned, meaning you end you standing around sweltering for stretches. However, the fans in the touristy areas were quite expensive and since I wasn’t sure I would actually use it, I was happy to pick up a pretty one for 150 yen, not to mention a few more as gifts.
One of the things to do in Kyoto is for tourists to dress up in kimonos and wander around. There’s a facility for this in Kyoto Tower itself, and I was tempted, but the heat decided it for me. It was nice to see women wandering around in kimonos though most of them were likely tourists (except older ladies who were clearly not). In fact, the previous day on our return from Nara we saw a lot of people in kimonos and were very surprised. Later, we realised there was a festival going on. Still, it was a treat to see all the pretty colours.