Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital
By Elaine Lies
KYOTO, Japan (Reuters) - Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital, is a laid-back counterpart to Tokyo that was first established more than a thousand years ago. Far to the west, it is a good place to forget the current capital's woes.
Kyoto's wide avenues follow a grid pattern that invites easy walking, one of the best ways to explore. Strolls reveal a modern city, but one where traditional touches -- a tiny shrine, upswept temple roofs -- are never far away.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of a city that was Japan's capital until 1868.
6 p.m. - Walk through one of the hanamachi, or geisha districts, and you may see a geisha or apprentice geisha heading out for the evening. Sightings of these women in elaborate kimono, thick white makeup and gleaming hair are especially likely in the Miyagawa-cho district, where taxis line up to whisk the geisha away to engagements at exclusive traditional restaurants.
7 p.m. - Dinner at Tako Nyudo, which specializes in "obanzai," or Kyoto homestyle cooking. Offerings on a recent day included yakitori, lotus root simmered with ground beef, and simmered pumpkin, but there are more exotic dishes such as tiny whole octopus stewed in soy. Ask the chef to whip up the house specialty: Akashi yaki, which resemble small round omelets wrapped around a chunk of octopus. Many of the plates and bowls were made by the woman who runs the restaurant.
9 p.m. - Stroll along the banks of the Kamo River. In spring, the eastern banks are lined with flowering cherries and newly green weeping willows, while in the summer diners can sit on terraces overlooking the water and gaze out toward the mountains that surround the city. At any time of year buskers may be performing along the banks.
Typical Kyoto scenery is the couples seated along the bank from afternoon into the evening, somehow always managing to space themselves exactly the same distance apart. Continued...