Visiting places in Kyoto usually involves lots to see and do at just one location and as a result I can usually dedicate a whole blog post to one subject, but if I only published posts on each big topic I would inevitably miss out photos and moments that aren’t worthy of a whole post by themselves. This post is for those pictures that would otherwise never get published despite being interesting. I will probably create a post like this for each month so this one will be for October.
While I will probably revisit Pontocho as it is a very interesting area, I would like to at least introduce it a little now. Those who have read ‘Geisha‘ by Liza Dalby will recognise the name at least. Pontocho is one of the areas of Kyoto where it is possible to see Geisha. Geisha are women that entertain businessmen through conversation, dance and music. The word ‘geisha’ (芸者) literally means ‘artist’. Contrary to outside perception Geisha are not normally prostitutes, instead they are considered entertainers and most do not sleep with clients. Their kimono are beautiful and cost thousands of pounds and they can be seen travelling between appointments in both Pontocho and nearby Gion (just across the river from Pontocho). While it feels a bit awkward to take pictures of people who are clearly travelling between jobs I did take a few when we came across geisha waiting to meet a client.
Pontocho itself is worth a visit simply for the huge variety of restaurants and the beauty of the street itself – it is a narrow pedestrian street lined with restaurants on either side, each displaying a lantern. In the summer the restaurants on the river side of the street have seating on porches over the river. Most of the restaurants are reasonably priced and many have menus in English. A few have amusing displays like the miniature food pictured below. I’m not entirely sure where I took the second picture but I have a feeling it was somewhere near Pontocho. No, I have no idea what’s going on either.
The Kamo river is something I have already talked about before but it is ever-changing with the time of day and season and it’s always beautiful. There is a huge variety of wildlife on the Kamogawa, especially birds – I’ve seen herons, egrets, mallards and kites alongside many other unfamiliar birds. There are also giant salamanders upstream – I hope to see one before I leave! If you want to see how huge they get check out this article – this salamander had to have a policeman keeping an eye on it so the public weren’t scared.
京都タワー Kyoto Tower
Anyone who has visited Kyoto has at least seen Kyoto tower – it’s slap-bang in front of Kyoto Station. Though I’ve been twice, both times were at night and so I didn’t get to see quite as far as it is possible to in the daytime, however, looking at all the lights in Kyoto sprawling out around you gives a real sense of how big Kyoto actually is. Kyoto has a tendency to feel more like a town than a city if you live outside the centre and seeing that it stretches all the way from the mountains in the West to the East is spectacular. If you do go up at night try to spot To-ji (東寺) pagoda which is lit up at night. Tickets for adults cost 770円 and it’s definitely worth a visit.
While I will definitely be going back to Arashiyama in daylight, I would like to share some of the pictures I took at night. Arashiyama is to the West of Kyoto and is home to loads of temples, a bamboo forest and a monkey park – you can easily spend the whole day there (and I intend to). When we arrived (I went with my parents) it was just starting to get dark and though I wouldn’t really recommend going at night as everything shuts and you can’t really see, it was lovely to watch the sun set over the Ōi River (大堰川), a river much larger than the Kamogawa.
Koryu-ji is a temple in West Kyoto that probably doesn’t get many visitors owing to the fact that it’s completely out-of-the-way of everything else (though it is on the way to Arashiyama if you’re willing to get off the train). The main attraction of Koryu-ji is the impressive collection of buddhist statues it has on display in one of the halls. The exhibition costs around 500円 and consists of one room, but there are a lot of statues with some dating back to the 11th century. Worth a visit if you enjoy Buddhist art and historical artifacts. The temple grounds are large and it has a beautiful mossy forest garden. Perhaps not worth the journey for some but it was enjoyable nonetheless.