Have you ever visited a place where you would like to immediately move to? That’s how I felt on my first day in Kyoto. My first impression of Kyoto is a vintage town with many layers to explore. Minutes before we went into a deep sleep, I told my best friends, “I like Kyoto better, one day I will move here“. We ended up spending three short days there and wished I could stay there much, much, longer. I even went as far as googling living costs there, not an easy task, almost everything is written in Japanese. As for a job? I guess a writer can live anywhere right? Oh the dream life..
But first, let me share the story of my first day in Kyoto
Dragging our kitchen-sink luggage through Tokyo train stations during busy periods was not a pleasant experience. Yin yelled a small victory once we reached the right platform. We took the Shinkansen, the legendary Japanese bullet train. We had booked our seats a day earlier and didn’t need to pay anything as it’s covered by our JR Pass. The train ride was smooth with a lovely view. I have taken train rides since I was young and have always enjoyed them.
Train rides in Japan were really fun! It’s definitely one of the things I love most about Japan. Japan has top notch trains (and some unique ones); they are clean, fast and on schedule. I loved the view from the carriage and got excited whenever the lady with the food cart passed through our carriage. Three hours and several rice cakes later we reached Kyoto. Kyoto is an historical city located in a valley, the roads are perfectly lined and the streets follow grid patterns; it was very nice to look at. Not too different from Melbourne’s downtown.
We left our bags at the hotel and headed out for lunch at another cozy little restaurant called Warai-Warai where I ordered Okonomiyaki, which is a savory Japanese pancake, and tasted similar to pizza to me. The waitress was quite impressive with her hospitality skill and basic knowledge in conversational English; I liked her. The food looked interesting and we played around with Katsuobushi before we devoured it.
Once we were done with our delightful lunch, we planned to go back to the hotel because Yin was tired and wanted to rest for a while. Poor Yin, she had been carrying a huge camera since morning from Tokyo and now on the streets of Kyoto. She wanted to memorialize as many fun moments of our trip, bless her heart.
Just before turning around back to the hotel, we saw a marketplace called Nishiki and decided to explore it for a little while, but a little while it wasn’t. This place was a shopping haven, we went to too many stores screaming the variations of “cute…“, “look!!” “waaah…” like young girls.
There was a kawaii little store where I bought souvenirs for colleagues and a rabbit kami for mom. It is supposed to bring good luck and good luck for her means good luck for us all. Vi and I also bought a hanging kitten decoration for home, which is now hanging in purple room’s window beside the dream catcher I got from Malaka years ago.
When you visit Kyoto, do go to the Nishiki Market. This place has everything to shop for. Souvenirs, photo-boxes, the Japanese equivalent of Western slurpee, tour services, cartoon character socks, a hippie store and high-end goods on the other side of the road. It’s around a 5 minute walk from Gion-Shijo station.
Spotting Geisha in Gion
Later that night we fulfilled Yin’s obsession with Geisha. We explored the Gion area, the famous Geisha Geiko district (a taxi driver taught us: Geisha in Tokyo; Geiko in Kyoto). Oh yes!! We spotted a few of them walking briskly, yet still gracefully, and going into those wooden houses at Hanami-koji Street. A fascinating sight and experience.
After some time we were hungry, since no more Geishas passed by, we went for dinner at a restaurant that sells unagi don exclusively. The girls couldn’t believe that it was my first unagi and it was, again, delicious.
We stayed at the Kyoto-Shijo Hotel located in a friendly little neighborhood. It has a family mart nearby, Lawson, where we bought our breakfast and interesting looking midnight snacks. It’s also walking distance to the train station.
The hotel itself is decent, but I would not recommend it because it has no WiFi in the building; you have to walk out of the building for about three minutes to get a WiFi connection. It would be a decent choice if you are a traveler who doesn’t care much about virtual connection, but for us, we need our triple W dosage every day.
Vi even went down at night in her PJs to access the internet from a small desktop computer with an unusual keyboard which they put in the lobby for a limited 10 minutes per usage. What?? 10 minutes is not even enough to login to your email and scroll down your Facebook page at the same time.
Johnnie Walker Walking Tour
On my first day in Kyoto, I found a tour pamphlet in our hotel called Johnnie Walker Walking Tour. A 5 hour walking tour around Kyoto covering many places for USD$20. A tour around Kyoto with a local who has 50 years experience? I found that very interesting, unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to do it that time. Now that I am currently in Japan and going to Kyoto tomorrow, I am hoping to join the tour. Just need to convince Fafa to walk for 5 hours. I have a feeling that it’s not going to be easy.