Ky­oto

AN­NEMARIE LUCK FINDS HER ZEN IN THE AN­CIENT CAP­I­TAL OF JA­PAN

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - TRAVEL -

all coun­tries have their ri­val cities. In Ja­pan, it’s Tokyo ver­sus Ky­oto. The mod­ern cap­i­tal is fa­mous for its buzzing, con­crete edgi­ness, while pret­tier pre­de­ces­sor Ky­oto is where time is sus­pended as you wan­der through bam­boo forests, marvel at historic tem­ples and imag­ine your­self to be on the set of Mem­oirs of a Geisha. Luck­ily, you don’t have to choose be­tween the two: Ky­oto is a 2,5hour Shinkansen (bul­let train) ride away from Tokyo, so it’s easy to fac­tor in a quick visit – and a spot of ki­mono-brows­ing.

TOP SPOTS & PAUSES

There are 1 600 Bud­dhist tem­ples in Ky­oto.To avoid ‘tem­ple burnout’, hire a bi­cy­cle and visit the most pop­u­lar ones, in­clud­ing Kinkakuji (Golden Pav­il­ion), which re­ally is cov­ered in gold leaf, and Kiy­omizu-dera (Pure Wa­ter Tem­ple), one of 17 World Cul­tural Her­itage sites in the city. Ja­pan-guide.com Par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful dur­ing cherry blos­som sea­son (late March/early April), The Philoso­pher’s Path got its name from Nishida Ki­taro, a Ja­panese philoso­pher who used to walk this route to work ev­ery day. Fol­low the stone path from Ginkakuji (Sil­ver Pav­il­ion) to Nanzenji neigh­bour­hood. Ja­pan-guide.com Stroll through the oth­er­worldly Arashiyama bam­boo for­est to Okochi Sanso, for­mer home of ac­tor Den­jirõ Õkõchi, which boasts a mys­ti­cal Ja­panese gar­den. Ja­pan­vis­i­tor.com There’s noth­ing quite like the awe-filled peace you ex­pe­ri­ence when seated be­fore a 15th­cen­tury zen gar­den. Ryoan-ji Tem­ple’s kare­san­sui (dry gar­den) con­sists of 15 rocks sur­rounded by white gravel, still raked daily by monks. Ryoanji.jp

DRINK & EAT

Eat like a monk at Ryoanji Yud­ofu, a res­tau­rant in the grounds of Ryoan-ji Tem­ple that serves the same tofu-based dishes en­joyed by the holy men. Take your shoes off at the three Miche­lin-starred Kikunoi and revel in ry­otei (multi-course Ja­panese cui­sine) at the foot of the Hi­gashiyama moun­tains. Kikunoi.jp The owner at Yo­ramu Sake Bar will help you tailor your sake to your taste buds and pair your choice with suit­able snacks. Sake­bar-yo­ramu.com Add a lit­tle rock ’n’ roll to your evening at the Rolling Stones-themed Ing, an iza­kaya (Ja­panese-style pub). Ky­oto­ing­bar.com

SHOP

The Gion district is home to Ky­oto’s geisha. Browse the arts, crafts and sou­venir stores, and you might spot the ki­mono-clad en­ter­tain­ers shuf­fling about.Visit Yo­jiya, a cos­met­ics com­pany that sells lo­cal prod­ucts such as Abu­ra­torigami (oil-blot­ting fa­cial pa­per). Yo­jiya.co.jp In down­town Ky­oto you’ll find the fa­mous Nishiki food mar­ket, as well as fashion brand-rich de­part­ment stores like Daimaru. Daimaru.co.jp

SLEEP

Spend the night on a fu­ton bed at a ryokan (tra­di­tional Ja­panese inn), com­plete with tatami mat floors. Hi­ragiya, es­tab­lished in 1818, is one of the most sought-af­ter ryokans in Ky­oto, while Nishiyama is an at­trac­tive, no-frills op­tion. Ryokan-ky­oto.com

Clock­wise from top left The Gion district; An­nemarie and part­ner Kevin at Kinkakuji; a lo­cal at Ryoan-ji Tem­ple; kokeshi dolls; the Okochi gar­den; one of Ky­oto’s many tem­ples.

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