Spending a Night in a Ryokan
Kyoto is one of the best places in Japan to experience the traditional inn, where you'll sleep on a futon in a tatami room and be treated to a beautifully presented multicourse kaiseki feast, perhaps with a view of your own private garden. Though expensive, it's the utmost in simple elegance and well worth the splurge.
Dining on a Tofu Vegetarian Meal in a Garden Setting
Shojin ryori, vegetarian meals served at Buddhist temples, are one of Kyoto's specialties. There are a number of rustic restaurants with outdoor garden seating throughout Kyoto.
Visiting a Japanese Garden
Kyoto has a wide range of traditional gardens, from austerely beautiful Zen rock gardens used by Buddhist priests for meditation to the miniature bonsai-like landscape gardens of the ruling classes.
Strolling Through Eastern Kyoto
Temples, shrines, gardens, craft shops, traditional neighborhoods -- these are highlights of a day spent walking through this historic part of Kyoto. You won't find a slice of old Japan like this in other Japanese cities.
Shopping for Traditional Crafts
Traditional arts and crafts thrive in Kyoto, where skills are passed down from generation to generation. You'll find small specialty shops selling everything from fans to wooden combs.
Seeing How the Upper Class Lived
Kyoto has more imperial palaces and villas than any other Japanese city. Walk through the shogun's digs at Nijo Castle and if you have time, visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Katsura Imperial Villa, or Shugakuin Imperial Villa with their splendid gardens.
Kyoto's traditional pleasure quarter is fascinating for its austere architecture, hushed atmosphere, and the sight of heavily made-up geisha in traditional kimono hurrying to their evening appointments. Though touristy, Gion Corner is your best bet for observing performances of traditional dance, puppetry, and other cultural presentations.
Taking an Evening Stroll Through Pontocho
A small, narrow pedestrian lane, Pontocho is lined with a dazzling collection of brightly lit hostess bars, restaurants, and drinking establishments. If it's a warm night, end the evening by sitting for a while along the banks of the nearby Kamo River, a popular spot for Kyoto's young couples.
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