Kyoto, 京都 Day 2, aka Christmas in Japan

December 26, 2010

I treated myself to the most American thing at Starbucks. After breakfast, I caught the right bus in the right direction and headed to Kiyomizu-dera on a bitingly cold morning. The trek up to the temple is a fun walk past souvenir shops and roadside food stalls selling all manner of wagashi (sweets made with chestnut and red bean paste) and fried foods on a stick (couldn't identify). The temple itself was mobbed by Chinese and Japanese tour groups; there's not much to see inside the temple, but the various buildings are perched rather dramatically on the mountainside.





I walked down narrow cobbled lanes into Gion, where I spotted what appeared to be a geisha, but most likely was a Japanese tourist dressed as a geisha and having her photo taken (still, she made a pretty picture). Apparently it's big business in Kyoto, where you can dress up as a geisha or maiko (geisha-in-training) for an hour and wander the streets of Gion for about 10,000 yen.











I wandered into a winding maze of wooden machiya teahouses (the lanes were deserted), with their tantalizing glimpses into hidden courtyards and through slatted doors. I continued to the Takashimaya Department Store, seven floors full of opulence (Breitling and Cartier watches, Tiffany, Chanel, Prada and all the name brands in addition to a kimono floor and a traditional crafts floor).



Later that evening, I checked out the Kyoto Handicraft Center, a tourist trap but for one saving grace: English-language Japanese cookbooks. I've been trying to find some, but all the bookstores I've visited were Japanese-only.

Later that evening, I headed back north of Gion to hunt for the elusive geisha or maikos. I did find one genuine maiko (evident by her unpainted neck and long obi sash) and several bewitching courtyards lit by faint lantern light.







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