Wandering The Streets of Kyoto

Kyoto is a good city for walking. This is particularly true in the historic district of Higashiyama on the east side of the city.

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The streets are narrow and often steep. Higashiyama nestles against the mountains that ring this side of Kyoto.

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This area contains many of Kyoto’s most famous temples, and the streets are full of tourists, both Japanese and foreign.

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There are plenty of shops and restaurants, but the kitsch is mostly kept to a minimum. We went into this spice store to buy a gift for our son David. We got talking to the owner, who told us the store had been run by his family in this location since the 1600s.

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David likes to cook and he loves hot pepper – the hotter the better. We got him different ground spice mixes and a little pot for serving spices at the table.

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If you keep walking around you will find even narrower streets, more like alleys.

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Here there are homes and members-only clubs.

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Signs admonish visitors to be quiet and also not to take pictures. Oops. The sign is in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and English.

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I thought this miniature torii gate set over a street drain was kind of funny. Torii are used as entrances to sacred places such as temples. We were told this little one is meant to discourage people from urinating into the drain.

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Beyond the historic districts, the ordinary neighborhoods of Kyoto are also worth exploring. I’m always impressed by how the Japanese do urban gardening with containers.

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A quiet street.

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A house with a garden, apparently owned by a rose fancier.

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A bridge over one of the smaller rivers that flow through Kyoto.

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Statue of the unknown schoolboy.

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A store for Buddhist religious goods. Judy and I bought a small brass lotus flower.

There was one day where we paid a guide to walk with us. We thought it was more than worth the cost to have someone who could explain what we were seeing and guide us to spots of particular interest. We found our guide through this website. 

If you ever find yourself in Kyoto, don’t spend all your time seeing famous sites. Allow yourself some freedom to wander the city.

 

33 Comments on “Wandering The Streets of Kyoto

  1. Amazing how the urban gardeners take any space they can and add plants. It all looks so nice. No litter. ?

  2. I really enjoyed this tour! Those hot peppers look delicious, and I love the morning glories growing in pots on the street.

      • Oh no! I thought they were real and was thinking that if I had been there I would have wanted to get some to save for seed! LOL

  3. Lovely impressions of the smaller streets of Kyoto. Love the little green oases in between plain buildings. I wonder how long it will be before you go back, as you seemed to like it very much there… Thanks for sharing!

    • I’d say at this point it is unlikely we will return. We were able to go because of Judy’s job, and I don’t think she’ll be sent again. Plus, there are so many other places we want to visit.

  4. Wonderful tour! Sign me up. I’d love to wander through those streets and look at the shops, houses, and gardens. Nice gift for your son. I especially like the idea of the little pot to be kept on the table.

  5. It’s always so great to get away from the touristy parts and see how people really live in an area. I love the plants in the containers, with people growing things wherever they have a spot! The shops of spices would be so much fun to visit.

  6. I’m with you – whenever we travel, I will see some of the tourist attractions but it’s more of a “since you’re there, you may as well see/do that” sort of thing. The majority of the trip is spent wandering and exploring, which is really the highlight for me.

    • Yes, I like to feel relaxed during a trip. We typically get up late, have a leisurely breakfast with much reading and perusing, then see one or two “attractions” – then spend the rest of the day wandering.

  7. I enjoyed your tour & always nice to see more than touristy areas. It is wonderful to see people growing plants in such small gardens … Most humans love a bit of greenery I think. I’d be interested to know if people own their own homes .. Or mostly rent? Is there a welfare system for the poor/ elderly?

    • Some people do own homes or apartments, but it’s not the norm like it is in the US. They do have a welfare system, though the poor don’t get a lot of help. My nephew said the lack of child care is a huge problem.

  8. In the meantime I have seen Kyoto myself and I also enjoyed it very much, but we were not that lucky with the weather. I will come back!

  9. Pingback: Kyoto walking … | Old School Garden

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