Kyoto – Temples and Geishas

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Advice + Tips, Art, Entertainment, Excursions, Japan, Kyoto, Local Color, Tea Ceremony, Temples | 4 comments


Kyoto is a city of contrasts – modern buildings and very old temples, the latest fashions and traditional kimonos. It’s the kind of place I envision when I think of Japan.


My first morning in Kyoto, I navigated the train system to get to Fushimi Inari, the temple of 10,000 gates (which should also be called the temple of a million steps!). It sits at the base of a mountain with thousands of giant red gates all in a long row snaking upward, which you walk through, following the path past many smaller temples or shrines.

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It leads up to a view at the top looking out over Kyoto. It’s about 4 kilometers and takes about 2 hours to walk up, and is totally worth the effort, not just for the view, but for the experience of all of the different things to see along the way.



The entrance was jam packed with people, and the usual money making things like fortune telling in various forms – the sticks in a tube, the place to hang bad fortunes out to dry, and tons and tons of food booths selling mostly things I didn’t recognize.


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Many foxes are found in Inari shrines, and Inari is the god of rice. You can purchase a small fox shaped board and put your own fox face or message on it to leave behind.

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From there, I wandered to the Gion area, which is the “old Kyoto” where women dressed in Geisha garb hang out. Some are “real” geishas and many more “pretend” geishas – there are actually kimono rental shops!


On my way there I accidentally stumbled upon a park, so I headed through instead of taking the direct map route, and discovered Kennin ji, a Zen temple & garden – what a happy accident! I’d been trying to find what I thought was a Zen temple on the map this morning, with no luck, and here I found one when I wasn’t looking!



It was beautiful, with a rock garden raked in circles and swirling lines, lovely rooms with tatami mats and square green cushions, and amazing paintings. Girls dressed like geishas posed for photographers, and a couple of them took a selfie with me! 



Also while not looking, I ran into a dance show venue where tickets were about to go on sale, and someone was handing out sheets for a discount, another happy accident. The show included a bit of traditional music, flower arranging, tea ceremony, comedy play, Kyoto dance, and puppet theater. It was a bit touristy but still worth seeing.

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Gion at night is a sight to behold…

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In Kyoto, you can also visit Nijo Castle…


…and visit the Golden Pavillion, Kinkakuji.


You can visit amazing ceramics shops and a gallery where 102 different artists works are displayed, all tea ceremony related, contemporary as well as traditional, and shop in places that just sell Japanese fans…



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You can attend a Japanese tea ceremony, where they will show you all of the intricacies involved. It’s quite fascinating, full of way too many details for me to remember. But then it’s also sort of meditative. Even the tea scoop has a name! This one translated to something like “cherry blossoms that float like snow in spring.”

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Later, dinner with a new Swiss friend, Ruth, at a local’s joint, sitting at the bar eating dumplings and beer. A great way to end the day.


Even without your own kimono and tea bowl, you can have a lovely time in the beautiful Japanese city of Kyoto!



  1. Beautiful images of Kyoto. You always imagine the frenetic pace of life in Japan and your photos show the other side of Japanese life, the tranquillity of the Zen gardens and the quiet measured pace of the tea ceremony in contrast to the life of the typical Japanese journeymen.
    A different perspective of life there.

    • Thanks Grahame 🙂 Yes, it’s quite a contrast, and you can experience both!

  2. Lynn: Just shared this with my husband because he is getting ready to go on a business trip to Japan. He’ll have a free weekend to explore!

    • Oh, good, I hope he has a great time! Message me if you want any more information 🙂 if he’ll be in Kyoto, it’s worth a train or bus ride out to Arashiyama to see the bamboo groves. You can easily go there & back in a day.

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