Diary of a day spent in Kyoto, the old Japanese capital, among its blooming cherry trees, bamboo forests and stunning geishas wrapped in fine silken kimonos.
We arrive in the late afternoon of a cool spring day.
It is almost dark in Kyoto, but curiosity overcomes exhaustion so we decide to rent two bikes in search of a restaurant where we can experience some local delicacy. On the dimly lit riverside we can barely see the blooming cherry trees, but their scent makes us imagine what’s in store for tomorrow, a feast of colors and timeless images. We eat at a small restaurant in Gion, the Geisha district, where there is no shortage of red light bars among traditional restaurants and Japanese versions of American fast food.
The next morning, we are ready at 7 am, chit chatting in the hotel lobby while waiting for Emi, our beautiful Japanese guide who will show us the city and its surroundings. We take a taxi heading to the northwest of the city, where we will visit the famous Arashiyama, a gorgeous forest of tall bamboo canes, which create an almost surreal light.
Also the area around the forest strikes us with its beauty, the gardens, perfectly well kept, the endless varieties of mosses, the hidden paths among cherry and maple trees, one of which leads to the highest point of the park, where a small Shinto shrine frames the marvelous view over the city.
Walking towards the exit we come across Canto, a pleasant painter, who not only strikes us with the beauty of his miniatures, but also because he likes to entertain us, showing off his flawless Spanish!
We decide to head back to the city center on foot and by underground, towards Nishiki Market.
We wander around the market: there’s more than a kilometer of stalls and street vendors. Spices, candies, seafood and land products, herbs, all kinds of teas, a feast of scents, colors and sounds. We taste as many things as we can, buy some local products and decide to have lunch in a quieter place where Emi often goes, a place where tradition melts with avant-garde.
We go back to the hotel, where we anticipate our 500 km walk along the Nakasendo!