Japan 2014: Kyoto

After two nights in Nagoya, it was time to continue my journey and do some more work. I went to Kyoto for two nights, stayed in two different hotels, and visited a whole bunch more hotels for work. My time in Kyoto was about 90% work, but I still found time for a little bit of fun (and some fantastic food, of course!).

I still remember the first time I ever visited Kyoto back in 2006 and how terribly disappointed I was when I arrived in Kyoto Station and found this…

Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station, May 2014

Instead of this…

Pontocho, Kyoto

Pontocho, May 2014

I’ve got over that disappointment now, as I’ve come to realise what a fantastic city Kyoto is. Parts of it are ultra-modern, and very ugly and concretey, but there are beautiful parts too. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit my favourite part of Kyoto, Arashiyama, but I still found some beauty in the main part of the city (as well as some interesting modern areas). Here are some of the best bits…


Very close to Kyoto Station it’s still possible to find bits of ‘old Kyoto’

Kyoto Station made from Lego

Inside Kyoto Station I found a model of Kyoto Station made entirely out of Lego!

Kyoto Station made from Lego

Apparently this model took 3 years and 7 months to make!!

Kyoto Station

Kyoto is a large and confusing city, but it’s not as difficult to get around as Tokyo!

Kyoto Post Box

This Kyoto post box is so cute!

Mister Donut

Pausing at Mister Donut for a sugar and matcha fix…

Kyoto Station

People watching… Despite how modern things are, people do still walk around in kimonos…

View from the Hotel Granvia Kyoto

From my hotel room I can see across Kyoto city, and there’s even a shinkansen going by!


Time for more sweets…


These road signs on the pavement are pretty handy if you notice them!


Strange old-but-new Kyoto…


The Kamogawa – as beautiful as ever!

Tea Ceremony at WAK (Women's Association of Kyoto)

For work, I stopped for a brief tea ceremony…


Yaji-san and Kita-san from ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’

Pontocho, Kyoto

Hiking down Pontocho…

Pontocho, Kyoto

Pontocho – bursting with colour!

Pontocho, Kyoto

But looking good in black and white…

My one treat in Kyoto (apart from all the matcha!) was to go to the Kamogawa Odori (鴨川をどり) geisha dances. I’d never been to anything like this before and didn’t really know what to expect.

Kamogawa Odori

The Kamogawa odori (鴨川をどり) at Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre

Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre

People milling around outside Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre

The show was incredible. My ticket was for the show and also pre-show green tea, but I didn’t realise this would be matcha served up by a real maiko!  I somehow managed to get a front row seat for this (it wouldn’t have been so good if I had been stuck at the back of the room) and was able to closely watch the beautiful maiko whisking matcha powder and water to make the tea. Oh how I wanted to photograph her! Sitting down in the theatre I felt quite excited, but became even more excited when I realised there were maiko in the audience too! I watched a few beautiful maiko come in and take their seats, wishing one of them would sit next to me (they didn’t). How amazing would it have been to sit next to one for the whole performance! The show itself was really interesting. It was the 177th Kamogawa Odori, and it was called Kagamiyama Yukari no Hanazone (adapted from a well-known kabuki play Kagamiyama Kokyo no Nishiki). You could tell that it was a story which had come from kabuki, as it had a real feeling of kabuki about it. However, unlike kabuki plays which can be quite long and sometimes dull, the performance was quite lively and the colourful set and costumes kept me fully entertained.


After the performance some of the maiko who had been in the audience left swiftly


They moved faster than I could…

Kamogawa Odori programme & souvenir plate

Kamogawa Odori programme & souvenir plate

Of course, photography and videoing were not allowed during the Kamogawa Odori performance, but I found this short clip of this year’s performance on YouTube from Sankei News:

I may have only spent a couple of brief days in Kyoto, but it was enough to reignite my passion for all things traditional. I adore maiko and geisha, and next time I’m in Kyoto I hope to be able to spend more time getting beneath the surface of this mysterious world.

6 thoughts on “Japan 2014: Kyoto

  1. I was in Kyoto in June for a couple of days on my holiday – I loved Pontocho – I’ll link you to my photos once I’ve gone through them :). I didn’t get to see the Geisha dance, but its on my ever increasing list of things to do next time!


    • Kyoto Station is great, just not what I expected the first time I visited! (I’m sure I’m not alone in that!) I do miss Arashiyama – will have to try to squeeze it in next time. 🙂


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