Kyoto is well setup for tourism and unlike in other parts of Japan Kyoto, seems well versed in English with employees at restaurants and hotels mostly able to converse in English. This is the city of temples – during our visit, we were told there are something like 1,600 temples in or near Kyoto – several of them are within easy walking distance from the main street in the city, Shijo Avenue including the impressive Yasaka Shrine.
Gion is a charming section of Kyoto with numerous Japanese style houses including tea houses, restaurants, bars and assorted clubs. Easily accessible from Kyoto’s major east west connector, Shijō Street – walking in Gion feels worlds away from the commercial shopping centers and stores that line both sides of Shijō Street.
Historically famous in Japan for its geisha’s, Gion was the location in the novel, Memoirs of a Geisha. Also the pretty Shirakawa River runs through the district as well as being bordered by the much larger Kamo River (a popular place in the spring and summer for pedestrians). Of the select cities in Japan that we have visited over the years, Kyoto is by far our favorite.
Well worth a day side trip is a visit to Arashiyama – about 45 minutes by train from central Kyoto. Located along the Katsura River this region is in the country and features a number of very historical temples, restaurants along the river, a Bamboo forest, a Monkey park and hiking along both sides of the river. Visitors often take short river boat cruises along parts of the river.
For more information, visit the official Kyoto Visitor’s guide: www.kyoto.travel