Sep 23, 2013

Clever in Kyoto

Today, I journeyed on the Shinkansen super-express high speed railway line from Tokyo to Kyoto. I was sad to say farewell to Oto-san who took such great care of me at his apartment in Shinjuku, but excited to be moving on to a different part of Japan. 

Oto-san on the balcony in his Shinjuku apartment
While I will miss breakfast in Oto-san's kitchen overlooking the Tokyo skyline, I am happy to have a change of pace and head over to a little bit of pampering at the Hotel Nikko Princess in Kyoto. It is conveniently located, and the concierge services were super helpful when I arrived, setting me up with a great tour and giving delicious suggestions for the best ramen, sobu, and tempura in the city.

Because I arrived late in the day, I decided to put off seeing the shrines and temples until tomorrow. In the meantime, I headed towards Nishiki Market to check out some of today's eats. Nishki Market is a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants, and more commonly known as "Kyoto's Kitchen". You can find everything from flowers, to sweets, to baby octopus on a stick. Lots of people just wander through, but it is also a good place to stop for lunch. 

Once at the end of the Nishiki Market, you will find one of the entrances to the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine where many of the shop owners in the market will go to pray. As I understand it, all of these lanterns have names of the shop owners in the market.

When I finished strolling through the market, I headed over to Kitaza to meet up with the Gion Night Walk. Gion is Kyoto's most traditional district where the culture of Kagai, the world of maiko and geiko (better known as geisha) are still very much alive and well. Mary was our tour guide and she was super informative. I never knew there were so few geikos, and how rare it was to see one! We managed to see one walking into one of the prominent tea houses, but alas, she was too quick for me to snag a photo of her.

Luckily, I did get to see two young girls walking out of a okiya,
which is a boarding house for maikos. These two weren't in full make-up,
 which leads me to believe they were 'maiko-in-training'. 

View from Shijo bridge.
Once the tour was over, I headed to dinner at Shunsai Tempura Arima. This was definitely the best meal that I have had in Japan so far. I ordered the Ume set course meal. Arima, the itame, artfully prepared each dish himself and served it with a description of the ingredients and preparation, which I found to be charming and helpful. Arima's can only accommodate 16 people at most, so definitely book ahead if you plan to go.

Arima giving me the 'thumbs-up' after attempting to learn some Japanese cuisine jargon.

Tomorrow it is off to the shrines!

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