A far cry from Tokyo's insane pace and mind-boggling train network system, Kyoto's poised and idyllic energy is much appreciated as a respite from the boring concrete jungle I'm too used to. Throw in the allure and grandeur of its amazing cultural heritage as Japan's old capital, its beautiful nature and temples, and the chance to catch a sight of mysterious Maiko and Geisha shuffling down Gion, I'm sold. I left my heart in Kyoto!
Staying at: Hiiragiya Ryokan. Japanese Omotenashi (the art of hospitality) at its best, Hiiragiya Ryokan is one of Kyoto's most famous and well-loved ryokan, touting Japanese Noble Prize Literature winner Yasunari Kawabata and many international film stars as their regular patrons. Situated conveniently near the famous shopping street of Teramachi, Hiiragiya Ryokan is still owned and run by the family that started it more than a century ago in 1818. Staff are super attentive and helpful, offering first class service that, in my opinion, surpasses that of today's six stars Western hotels. With 28 exclusive rooms, service is highly customized and guests have at least one staff assigned to take care of them during their stay. The traditional interiors and rooms are all decorated with hand painted folding screens in zen style and furnished with wooden beams, reed ceilings, tatami mats, shoji windows and fusuma sliding doors. It's as authentic as it can get and of course, there's a beautiful bathroom with cedar wood bath tub where water of the perfect temperature is drawn ready for you to hop in. How I wish I could live there! I love ryokan!
Eating: Kaiseki at Hiiragiya Ryokan in their newly extended banquet room. The food is amazing and banquet room very pretty.
Lovely omakase menu at Manzara Honten. It's a recommendation by a concierge that turned out to be an amazing last supper in Kyoto. They serve their sashimi on Andy Warhol plates and make amazing Mackerel sushi that happens to be their famous signature dish.
Tucked somewhere in an idyllic street is 红蝙蝠 or "Red bat" cafe. It's such a lovely and kitschy little tea house with beautiful tatami and amazingly tasty macha creme brulee. I regret not ordering another one cos I don't see if anywhere else. Damn!
Drinking: Sokenbicha. This tea, sold everywhere in Japan's vending machine, is so aromatic and divine that I now buy them at a hiked up price at Medeiya at Liang Court.
Visiting: The amazing bamboo forest at Arashiyama. Amazing is really the right word to describe the bamboo forest. It's a reminder of how beautiful nature is and I'm sure to go back again.
Buying: Skincare from Yojiya, the cult Japanese skincare from Kyoto that every Japanese woman is crazy about. I wasn't that keen until I saw every single Japanese woman carrying a Yojiya paper bag and they all have good skin. That many Japanese women with good skin can't go wrong and I made a beeline to their super crowded shop (every one of their outlet is crowded), wrestled my way in and came out with a starter kit and a bottle of essence.
Now watch out...major photo bomb ahead and it's really just a fraction of it.
The awesome Hiiragiya Ryokan
The tokonoma, or alcove, is a key feature in any traditional Japanese house where they display beautiful scroll or heirloom. Putting anything at the tokonoma is a big no-no. It's sacred.
A traditional wooden dresser! How beautiful...though HL pointed it reminds her of erm, Sadako from The Ring...lol
I can't begin to tell you how much I love Japanese bathroom. I'm not a bath fan but the Japanese cedar wood tub is just too good to miss.
A little decorative feature at the new wing in Hiiragiya
Dinner and breakfast were served at this beautiful banquet room
It's takenoko, or bamboo shoot, season!!! I LOVE takenoko! Can't have enough of it and I've been cooking takenoko nimono at home these days.
Where else but in Kyoto can you find a temple in a shopping lane among modern shops!?
Colorful pickles! So pretty!
This neko-chan dolly seems to be quite a favorite among Japanese food seller. It dances too...
The beautiful trail at Arashiyama! It's so beautiful!
The Imperial Palace garden. Such a shame that it's closed for maintenance while I was there. Now there's more excuse to go back.
The famous Kamo River in Kyoto near the Gion.
A lovely corner at 红蝙蝠 cafe
The macha creme brulee was simply divine!
A giant statue of Kwan-yin
Maiko-wannabe. I thought I was lucky to caught a sight of maiko but nope, these are white tourists dressed up as maiko.
An exhibition with painting of cats draw on plates. I just need to take a picture of it for Mr Bond.