In case you don’t follow our Instagram, a little while ago I had the very fortunate pleasure of visiting Japan with the team from Jo Malone. It’s been a not-so-secret dream of mine, so I was beyond excited. Plus, I got to take the Bullet Train to Kyoto, a destination we haven’t been able to share with you on the blog until now!
And what better opportunity to give you a little look at 24 hours in Kyoto?!
Arrive in Kyoto via the Bullet Train. Try to reserve a window seat on the right side of the car so you can see Mount Fuji!
Try a bento box lunch — they’re like food architecture and picture-perfect. I tried one in one of the oldest zen temples in Kyoto, Kennin-Ji, founded in 1202 (!!). It’s sort of the perfect welcome to the city. Then a stroll through the zen gardens, followed by some aimless wandering through the winding, uphill ancient streets of the Higashiyama-Ku district.
Eat some soba! Like in most foreign cities, the sign of a good, traditional restaurant, is that of a line of the local seniors waiting. We went to Honke Owariya, where even as a pescatarian my choices were broad. I love brothy noodles where you can add hot spices to your heart’s content, so this was sort of heaven! Plus, it’s set in an old wooden building — rather quaint and genial.
Around the Higashiyama-Ku district you can find lots of little shops with beautiful painted pottery, touristy souvenirs, and plenty of places to taste all the things you never thought you would – you know, the things that look like a piece of green chalked cement or tiny warm browned puffs filled with more brown paste. I also found a great incense shop called Rakuten where I purchased a few gifts for lucky friends!
This is also a lovely area to participate in a traditional tea ceremony! Be warned, these can take upwards of 3 hours… BUT totally worth it if you can finagle a way into an abbreviated one… They are magnificent! You sort of become mesmerized by the tradition that goes into the process of the tea ceremony. The matcha, when made properly, isn’t for everyone but, out of respect, my advice is to just drink it!
Visit at least one or two temples! The moss temple is meant to be incredible, but you have to reserve tickets well in advance. Should you forget, don’t fret – there are plenty more to see. A friend suggested the Tokujin Yoshioka’s Glass Tea-House at the monumental location at Seiryu-den of the Shoren-in temple, a national treasure of Japan. It’s on view until April of 2016, so hurry! The temple also has expansive views of the city, a Japanese maple leaf tree filled zen garden, and a tower you can climb to see even better views!
Do some vintage shopping. And yes, okay, as a girl who loves vintage, this was sort of the last place I thought I would search for the perfect pair of Levi’s… But, truth be told, the Japanese do American vintage even better than us! My heart was set on finding a kimono, so I stalked around the area of Nishiki market to find one… Or two. The market is insane, a bustling narrow strip filled with all sorts of vendors; from candies dressed as geishas to dried, well, everything, to more types of mochi than I knew existed. You could easily lose half your day here.
We had the pleasure of a full Geisha performance at the Ryokan we stayed at, but you can definitely go to public viewings to take in the enchanting dances and songs.
After all that, you will be more than happy to take a nice long soak in one of the assuredly beautiful baths at your Ryokan (or attempt a Japanese bath, which enlists the help of a couple buckets…more or less) , put on a kimono , sip some tea and fall blissfully asleep …
***As a side-note, I tried the Japanese bath, by following a few simple-ish steps below.. **extra side note, I’ve never taken so many baths or felt cleaner than in Japan. It was like bath re-birth! or born again skin! or Jason Bourne … wait, no.
The Japanese bathing ritual has four steps. Fill the bath full to shoulder height (DONT get in… yet) Seated on a low stool, use a bucket to rinse away dirt with hot water scooped from the prepared bath, then pop into the tub for a first soak. Reemerging, the bather sits on the stool and scrubs with soap and loofah, then rinses thoroughly. The final step is a relaxing, second soak in the tub.