Intro to Kyoto 101

Kyoto is a very deep subject, so this will only be a quick introduction. On the surface, Kyoto looks something like this:


As you can see, It is indeed a modern city with all the trappings and ‘beauty’ modernity provides. But hey, we don’t die of diarrhea, and we don’t wash our laundry on rocks by the river. In contrast to Tokyo, Kyoto (they are anagrams you know) is very laid back and relaxed. Of course New York might feel relaxed after Tokyo as well. But there is an undeniable ease about the place.

When one reads about Kyoto, you get the impression you will be going back in time, with it’s centuries old temples and traditions. This is indeed the heart of Japanese cultural and spiritual life. Kyoto was once the imperial capital of the country. But that was then, this is now.  The first impression might be ‘what is all the fuss about?’, but of course all these grand sites are indeed here. One just needs to know where to look – or follow the hoards of Japanese tourists and religious pilgrims. And even when one is not looking, there amidst the crassly current, is a temple or old wooden house tucked away somewhere.


Yea, Kyoto is indeed two worlds. There are ancient temples hidden away in unlikely corners as well as in the hills surrounding the city. And at night, the glow of the lanterns can draw you towards an incense filled temple, or a fine Japanese restaurant, or maybe a Geisha house. One never knows. But the city has a low key mystery about it. As a foreigner, it’s a puzzle one can never crack.

So one might see a Geisha on the streets of Gion, the old Geisha district. Or is she just a Japanese wannabe, paying for the privilege to don the expensive kimono and the white face for a day. One never knows…

And away from some of the brash architecture of modern Japan there are these wooden homes and businesses, often down narrow lanes. So pristine and pure in form…


And I am very lucky to have been invited into the home of Matsumoto-san (a friend of a friend) who lives in the country outside of Kyoto. But that’s another post.

And of course there’s the Shinto shrines and the Buddhist temples and the confusing blending of the two all around the city.


But this is just an intro course, so we will have to dig deeper later.


7 Responses to “Intro to Kyoto 101”

  1. 1 Salmon King May 27, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you for taking me away from this dreary place I live, if only for a moment. Great photos. Ok here is an anagram for you. Let me know if you figure it out. The anagram is in quotes below…
    “Am I near?”

    (BTW, the answer to that question is yes, in thought).

  2. 2 pro10s May 28, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Your pictures from Kyoto are so great, so my wife and I decided to visit Kyoto too. We’ll leave for Japan tomorrow! I hope we’ll be in Kyoto by May 31. 🙂

  3. 3 Linda Lou May 30, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Hi Peter. I have been following very closely. You are excellent at what you do. I have quite a few favorites. I understand you will be going on the next leg of you journey soon. I’m looking forward to it. All the different aspects of Keyoto are quite interesting. I thought the giesha girl is a great picture.

    I tried to e-mail you. Are you not able to receive? Talk to you soon.

  4. 4 dave May 30, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Pete – these pictures and the commentary are AMAZING. Just fantastic!


  5. 5 salmon king May 30, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Dave and Linda, Hope you both are well. Ready for more photos Pete. I am stuck in Kyoto, ha ha. Looking forward to sharing in your next adventure. Jeff

  6. 6 Confederate Shodan May 31, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Great photos!

    Don’t forget to play some pachinko for me……

    That covered alley way with all the vendors in kyoto is very cool….

  7. 7 Thomas DiMattia June 8, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Pete, you ae an excellent writer for such blogs as this. You did amazingly well for someone who did not spend much time in Kyoto. I had the privedlige of living in Kyoto for 5 weeks, and even got to live in a very small side house that ended up being some sort of “historical house” that could no longer be torn down by government standards. It was aome rare 1920’s cross between Japanese tradition and western style. Accidently broke an art deco style ceiling lamp that was always dangling near my head. These pure Japanese homes were not meant for tall people.
    Be thankful that you were not there just after the rainy season, where it seems like it sets world records for mugginess, and most of the Japanese in Kyoto walk around with hand rag towels to wipe off the sweat from their necks.
    But yo are fight Pete, you can live in Kyoto as a tourist for a month and not see everything there is to see.
    -Thomas DiMattia (the commentator on your Go trip in another blog)

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