Meeting Geisha in Kyoto
Kyoto was a pleasant surprise! With only a few days to spend in Japan, the girls and I were determined to make the most of our time there.
We arrived at Kyoto Shinkansen station by bullet train from Tokyo and strolled 10 minutes to our conveniently-located Airbnb. We had rented a traditional Japanese house, with mat flooring, sliding doors, and super-low furniture (I’m talking mattress on the floor low!)
There would be plenty of time to spend admiring the architecture, but first we had to explore. Our hosts had bikes ready for us so we hopped on and headed straight out. First stop…
The bike ride there was only about 20 minutes long but about halfway into our journey it started to drizzle (typical, right?) A quick stop at a 7/11 for four very handy raincoats and we were back on the road. A little hot and bothered and of course there was no escaping the wet feet but we made it intact. Finding somewhere to park the bikes was another adventure but hey, that’s a story for another day.
Sometimes called Kyoto’s Kitchen, Nishiki Market is a collection of mostly food shops and stalls selling everything from fresh fish to delicious grilled treats. It’s a loooooong road plus quite a few stalls try to entice you with free samples, so by the time you walk from one end to the other I almost guarantee you’ll have a full belly – I certainly did!
I had just about the largest shrimp I have ever eaten, some interesting-flavoured ice cream and of course picked up some cute gifts for friends and family back home. There are also quite a few shops selling clothes, skincare products and all sorts nearby so you can till you drop (all those calories ha!)
You know how I said you’ll have a full belly by the time you’re done at Nishiki Market? well if you press on with the rest of the shopping you’ll have worked up an appetite again and helpfully there’s this AMAZING restaurant nearby. Hiro is chain of Yakinuku restaurants in Kyoto, with one just 5/10 minutes walk from the market.
They specialize in grilled wagyu beef and you do the grilling! A hot-plate/grill is set on your table and you choose different cuts of beef to try (and sides if you want). The beef was sublime – tender and flavourful, I didn’t know it was possible for meat to melt in your mouth! I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Price wise, it was very reasonable too. The meal plus drinks came to roughly £25 each and we were all stuffed. Cycling home after that hearty meal was admittedly not my favourite activity.
No trip to Kyoto is complete without a visit to Gion, the most popular geisha district in the city. People often say early evening is a popular time to see the geishas as they make their way from one building to another.
Warmed up after our cycle home from the restaurant, we hopped back on our bikes around 11pm and made our way along the canals and winding roads in the cool evening breeze. We had no idea what to expect, but we definitely knew when we arrived. It was like stepping back in time…
The streets were lined with quaint wooden buildings and restaurants, and it was almost eerily quiet (not surprising given the time of night).
Till today I still get a big grin across my face when I think about it – I was so excited to see these women, almost preserved in history, with my own eyes! We greeted them with smiles and I shyly asked one if I could take a picture of her. She graciously accepted and posed for me – as I silently willed my DSLR not to let me down. Thankfully it didn’t…
Best. Night. Ever.
Day 2 in Kyoto coming soon…