IN SAFE HANDS
An insider escort is a brilliant way to get around Kyoto. While the city is geared to international visitors, and English-speaking taxi drivers display Tourist Friendly signs on their cab doors, it is busy year-round and a lot of time can be wasted in queues and crowds. I am blessed to be guided by Rika Araki of Hibikore Co, whose English is excellent and her love of Australia evident. After our Atelier Morimoto visit, we take off on our own unscripted artisan trail, slipping into nto stores that sell handmade fans, gorgeous washi-paper stationery, brocade kimono fabric and pottery old and new. There are heritage textiles, including Noh costumes and obi sashes, at Konjaku Nishimura, a two-roomed treasure trove; and contemporary homewares and men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, including yukata-style tops, at Sou-Sou’s collection of neighbouring backstreet boutiques.
Tessai-do Co specialises in antiques an and scrolls; Izawaya in kimono ac accessories such as silk drawstring po pouches and tiny handbags. In the heart of the old Gion nightlife quarter, Pagong se sells good-value zippered purses made fr from vintage textiles and lined with co contrasting fabrics. Araki also leads m more structured half-day and full-day to tours, with themes of cuisine, arts and cu culture, for groups of about five visitors.
Afternoon’s end is at the edge of Gion Gion, at green tea headquarters Saryo Tsujiri, established 1860, where brown rice tea is a specialty, prettily packaged boxes of tea make the best souvenirs imaginable, and scoops of matcha or roasted sencha ice-cream come twirled high, nestling in lacy paper cones that are, like Kyoto itself, an immutable work of art.