13 Apr 2017

Travel Diaries: Kyoto Talk

Travel Diaries: Kyoto Talk on vickiarcher.com

Kyoto was a cherry blossom dream.

According to the locals we were there at exactly the right moment; the three best days.


What does that mean?

It means that everywhere you look there are cherry blossoms in profusion. They crop up randomly all over the ancient capital but what is most impressive are the lines of trees that border the canals and waterways in and around Kyoto.


What I could never have comprehended were the amount of people who come to celebrate the cherry blossom. Needless to say I never captured the photographs I would have liked but I did feast my eyes on these beauties and was happy to settle for that.


My observation about travelling to Japan during the festival of “sakura” is to accept the crowds and that access to the most famous and beautiful of temples and shrines may be difficult and long winded. The queues are exceptional and in many cases not even possible; it can be very overwhelming.


We were extremely lucky and found an English-speaking taxi driver who knew his way about and where to go at what times. He was invaluable and while I was disappointed not to see all the famous temples and shrines on my list, he showed us much to be awed by.

If cherry blossom is your desire then early April is the time to go but be aware of the numbers and what it entails. I would love to venture back in the winter and brave the cold in order to capture some of the places we missed.


When we didn’t need to travel distance and use the guided taxis we walked in Tokyo and Kyoto, much to the locals shock and it was really the way to get the feel of the cities. Kyoto is an easy grid system and it really doesn’t take that long to get around. Tokyo is a little different; the 37 million residents who make up the greater area might be the reason.



What I really appreciated was experiencing Japanese culture first hand.

Travel to an unknown and exotic destination is so much more than famous tourist sites and history lessons. I like observing the people and how they live their lives; the way they dress, express themselves and even move around together. Japan is a fascinating culture and while every aspect was unfamiliar that made it very exciting. English, while spoken is not as widely used, as I would have imagined. It was very humbling to be in situations where the communications came down to wild hand gestures.


As for eating, there was a lot of pushing around the plate and hiding “secrets” at the bottom of the bowl. I like much of the Japanese cuisine but sometimes I was challenged. Their taste and palette for texture is very different; some I loved, some not so much. The fun was in the trying and the presentation.


The Japanese must be the masters of presentation.

The way they wrap a parcel, all angles and perfect intersection of corners is spellbinding. Packaging is layered and it would seem nothing is thrown in a bag with haste; all care and attention goes into the most meagre of parcels. Like their gardens; I was blown away by the delicacy of their clipping and the combinations of planting. Not to mention the Ikebana floral style; I am now a fan.


We stayed in the most wonderful boutique style hotel in Kyoto and if this city is on your travel agenda, I would consider it. The hotel is small but so well located in an area with lots of wonderful restaurants close by. It was a great find and while not as glamorous as the big name hotels, it was beautifully run and so comfortable.


If you go you must try a restaurant called Ryuen. It is tucked away, permanently packed and has exquisite food. Ok I’ll let you in on a secret, Ryuen might look Japanese and sound Japanese, the chefs are young and not a soul speaks English but it’s Italian and the kind of Italian that leaves the mouth watering and you wanting for more.


Just saying, in case you feel like a sushi, sashimi switch. xv



For Your Address Book

Villa Sanjo Muromachi

375 Ennogyouja-cho

Nakagyo-ku

KYOTO

+81 75 604 8174


Ryuen

39 Koromonotanacho Nishiiru Muromachi Sanjo Dori

Nakagyo-ku

KYOTO

604-8203

+81 75 2118688

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11 Comments

Mumbai

Your Japan report is honest and wonderful descriped. Have you been in an Onsen too?
Don’t know J. in the cherry blossom time but believe me, it’s fantastic in autumn also.
Recover well from your jet lag36

Reply
Jennifer Lively

Thank you for your recommendations about the best time to visit Kyoto and where to stay and eat while there. The cherry blossoms look amazing! Sorry to hear that you had to bypass visiting some of the more popular temple. I always think it’s a good thing to have some things left undone, so you’ll want to return.

Reply
Anita Rivera

Dearest Vicki, kon’nichiwa!

I was in Japan in 1978 and what an experience. I agree with you about the food. The texture was, well…..interesting! I ate as much rice and shrimp as I could handle (for that was the safest and most familiar for me!) but the gardens, the people, the countryside, the culture, it was also so magical. I loved that there was hardly if any English, so you had to observe, gesticulate wildly, and make connections. Oh those cherry blossoms, enchanting!

Reply
Wendy Going Forward

Thank you for your beautiful posts. Hopefully one day your Japan tips will come in handy!
Rest well!

Reply
Judy MacMahon

Yes Vicki, Kyoto is superb. I’ve been and stayed a minimum of a week in three separate occasions. Clearly I adore it on so many levels. I find it to be soul enriching.
And yes I’ve been there for Christmas and it snowed! What a dream!

Reply
Pamela

Have so enjoyed your wonderful postings on the cherry blossoms in Kyoto and Tokyo. Such beauty to see every day. Am going to miss my daily shots of blossom!
Japan and food – a problem for me because they use monosodium glutamate (msg – I’m severely allergic and need an ambulance and hospital fast) in almost everything except cakes and desserts. In Kyoto our hotel made special meals for me and I was fine as long as I ate there – which meant of course just taking a couple of pieces of fruit out every day for lunch. Our hotel in Tokyo wasn’t so helpful – huge and they had lots of restaurants (including Italian etc) – but they wouldn’t vary their meal formulas. The concierge had me escorted to all their restaurants and we discovered there was msg in almost everything even the bread they made and the Italian restaurant. For breakfast they gave me specially a glass of orange juice, an egg cup of tinned fruit – another of lychee, a plate of shredded lettuce (no dressing) and a pot of tea. I was able to buy tubs of natural yogurt and beautiful fresh fruit from the special floor in department stores – the most perfect and beautiful and unusual tasting grapes I’ve ever seen. I think I figured out that each grape would have cost about $2.00. But that’s what I survived on – that and cake and icecream! Best wishes, Pamela

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Trish Murphy

Thank you Vicki for your lovely posts.The cherry blossoms looked just divine. I have yet to visit Japan not too far from Sydney. Hope the jet lag is not too bad,

Reply
Pru Cooper

Have been twice. Love Japan but never again in August nearly died with the heat.

Reply
Elaine @ Following Augustine

Rather than winter which can be rather damp and dreary, I would suggest fall. It’s a beautiful season in Japan.

I love your description of the packaging! While the amount of wrapping always seemed a bit wasteful to me when I lived there, I was amazed by the layers and the care that was taken in wrapping even simple purchases.

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