The reason that motivated me to visit Kyoto is… a flea market. We all have our silly whims don’t we… And a desire to learn more about old Japan history of course. Cause in Kyoto, once Japan’s Imperial capital, you really do feel like time travelling. So there I went, took my Shinkasen ticket from Tokyo (200 euros for a round trip but it’s worth it) and spent a day only. Although I wish I had more time to explore, the “city of the ten thousand shrines” obviously led me to its marvelous temples. But also to a few good lifestyle surprises, like relaxing in an old coffee-shop with a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” atmosphere, or eating a delicious japanese style stuffed omelet in a cosmetic brand restaurant.
Breakfast at Ippongi
On your way to To-Ji Temple, find shelter in this western old style coffee shop held by a japanese lady. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is shown on a computer screen and elegant regular customer madams are still allowed to smoke a cigarette with their cuppa. Just to give you a picture…
ASK : For the pancakes. Close your eyes, Audrey Hepburn’s voice in your ears, And here’s a free Kyoto-New York ride.
To-Ji temple and Kobo Ichi Fea Market
The “East guardian temple” was founded when the capital moved to Kyoto in the late 8th century, it’s 5 storied Pagoda is Japan’s tallest and became a symbol of the region as it can be seen from many points across the city. Held inside To-Ji’s grounds on the 21st of each month, Kobo-Ichi Flea Market is one of the region’s largest. Vintage and handicrafts, old cash machine… It would take at least 3 hours to visit all the stalls. But unless you want to revamp your entire apartment you don’t need that much time.
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Tucked in the middle of south-east mountain trails, Fushimi Inari Taisha (dedicated to “Inari” the Shinto god of rice) is one of Kyoto’s most impressive attractions. Its thousands of orange Torii gates form a tunnel in which you can stroll. Around the sacred area is also where you’ll be able to eat good street food and find traditional souvenirs and gifts.
Couple your walk in the magnificent Bamboo Grove with a visit to the Nonomiya Shrine to pray for good love. Then have a lunch break at the Yojiya fine cafe (which is also a famous cosmetic brand from Kyoto), before savouring a green tea ice cream at the Soft & Ice stand.
ASK : For the Omu-rice at Yojiya. Which is a stuffed omelet (with fried rice, tiny fishes and tofu), bathing in a Miso broth. And to rent a bike for 1000 yen at the train station if you have time. To cycle through the rural residential areas and between the numerous temples.
The Golden Pavilion
Zen has never been this beautiful at Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion. Overlooking a large pond, this temple covered in gold leaf was home to the Shogun A. Yoshimitsu in the 15th century. Absolutely stunning.
ASK : Your way to the tea garden if you fancy a matcha.
Kyoto is often related to Geishas, which are related to Gion, the old traditional wooden houses neighborhood where the Ochayas (tea houses) are located. It’s an absolutely charming must-visit.
Japanese gastronomic restaurant cluster around Hanami-Koji street and the Shirakawa canal area. It’s very hard to catch a glimpse of a Geisha and you might be fooled by tourists dressed alike.
Other than that, beautiful Ippodo (also an ancient tea house) is located 20 minutes walk further North- West, just next to a traditional Paper shop (Washi) called Kamiji Kakimoto.
If you have an urge for HIpster or Boho lifestyle, head to Mumokuteki (vegetarian and health conscious food) restaurant & Cafe. Also a concept store, vintage or not they have it all.
ASK : For a “Japanese beauty berry” just for the name of it. Good for the skin and eyes they say…
And for a last sweet treat at the train station, make a pit stop at Irodori confectionery store. They make the best triangle-shaped mochi like Yatsuhashi, typical of Kyoto.