Eat, Drink, Walk: 3 Things to Do in Kyoto that Don’t Make You Look like a Tourist

January 31, 2022

“We’re going to Kyoto tomorrow, Katrin. Any advice for us?”

“Oh, Mom, you and Dad are never home!” Katrin laughs. “The kids are wondering if their grandparents are secretly tour guides.”

“Hahaha! We’ll be home in the Autumn. Plenty of time to see them.” Bella passes Wayne a pad and pencil. “Listen, you were in Japan recently. Before your father and I cause a scandal, what shouldn’t we do while we’re there?”

Katrin laughs. “Hahaha! I’m sure Dad will find something to cause a stir. Don’t wear shorts for a start. They’re not for adults. Wear conservative colors. Also, you’ll be taking your shoes on and off a lot, so wear slip-on shoes.” 

Bella nods. “Anything else?” 

“Oh yes! Whatever you do, never stick your chopsticks into your rice vertically. That’s a no-no. Lay them on top of the bowl or the chopstick rest.” 

“Why shouldn’t we do that?” 

“Japan is a Buddhist country, and to Buddhists, sticking the chopsticks in vertically means you’re offering your rice to the dead.” 

“Oh! Well, we really don’t want to do that then. Anything else?”

“Hmmm …oh, back to removing your shoes; never touch the ground outside with your foot. Remove your shoe and step inside.”

Wayne is scribbling furiously as Bella repeats back what Katrin tells her. “I’m never going to remember all this.” 

Bella laughs. “Thank you, Katrin!” She puts down the phone and smiles at Wayne. “That’s why you’re writing it down. We’ll be fine.”

“Pay close attention to the footwear you bring. In traditional restaurants, certain attractions and hotel rooms, you’ll be asked to take off your shoes upon entering. While flip flops are a big no-no for most occasions (save for a trip to the beach or a midnight run to the conbini), comfy ballet flats, loafers, boat shoes, or even a nice pair of slip-on sneakers are practical options.” LiveJapan

Bella and Wayne Cook Up a Storm in the Capital City

“I thought Tokyo was the capital?” Wayne drinks his coffee, smiles, and nods as the waitress refills his cup. “ありがとう!” 

“Domo Arigato.” Bella smiles as the waitress refills her coffee cup, then turns to Wayne and laughs. “Wayne, you’re Japanese sounds authentic.”

Wayne chuckles. “I thought I’d give you a run for your money, Dear. You’re always speaking like a native wherever we go, so I was practicing.”

Bella turns back to the guidebook. “Did you know, Kyoto was the capital of Japan until about 1200. Then it moved to Tokyo. Edo, then. It was the largest city in Japan until the sixteenth century. That’s what Kyoto means; capital or metropolis.”

Wayne nods. “I love that you know all this.”

Bella laughs again. “I have the guidebook. Plus, Katrin told me a lot.”

Wayne smiles. “Like mother, like daughter. You two bookworms.”

“So. Where shall we go today?”

“Well, we were so busy yesterday we should take it easier today. I never thought there would be river and lake cruises in such a small country. Remember those pirate ships yesterday? Marv and Francine would have loved joining us.”

Bella nods. “Next time we should go to Tokyo and go on a river cruise there. It’s supposed to be amazing.”

“I know! Why don’t we do a cooking class?” Wayne snaps his fingers.

Bella blinks. “Really? Cooking? You?”

Wayne laughs. “You love my pancakes, you’ll love my Miso soup.”

“Kyoto Uzuki Cooking Classes with Emi Hirayama take place in Northeast Kyoto for two or three people (individuals may join another group). You can choose from various options. Classes cost 6000 yen (US$56) for a 2.5 hour class making three dishes and 6500 yen (US$61) for a 3 hour class making four dishes.”  Never Ending Voyage

Bella and Wayne Enjoy Japanese Style Candy and Sake

“You’ll need to buy larger pants when you get home.” Bella laughs as she watches Wayne enjoy a second helping of Wagyu beef. Chewing contentedly, he nods as the waitress pours beer into his glass from the large bottle of Asahi beer. 

“This beef is so good! It melts in your mouth. It’s a nice change after yesterday’s vegetarian cooking class. And this beer is amazing! Not as good as in Prague but really nice!”

“I prefer my sake, thank you. Fushimi is the top sake-brewing district in Japan, you know. RIght here in Kyoto!” Bella sips the warm liquor. “Mmmm, delicious. We should take a bottle home.”  

Wayne nods. “Let’s do that. So, what would you like to do now?” Wayne smiles at his wife, who has a dreamy look in her eyes.

“Do you know, I’d really like to try some of the Kyoto candy. Kyogashi. The ones they make from bean curd.” 

“Bean curd candy?” Wayne finishes his glass of beer. “Why doesn’t that sound particularly tasty?”

Bella laughs. “Oh Wayne. They put sugar in it. Hahaha! You’ll be fine.” She waves to the waitress, pulling out her purse and gesturing to their empty plates. “Ikura desu ka?”

“Kyogashi, literally ‘Kyoto sweets.’ ‘Namagashi’ is the collective term for fresh sweets that are made chiefly with sweet bean paste. The term is used to differentiate these from Higashi (dry sweets). Namagashi sweets include Mochigashi (rice cake sweets), Mushigashi (steamed sweets), Manju (dumpling sweets), Yokan (semi-hard bean jelly), and others.” Kyoto Travel 

Bella and Wayne Stroll Kyoto’s Romantic Road

“Don’t forget to visit the Tenryū-ji Temple in the Arashiyama district, once the home to the aristocrats of Kyoto. Arashiyama can be reached by the Togetsukyo Bridge. This bridge provides one of the most amazing views of Arashiyama. Don’t forget the bamboo forest!” Bella reads the text message from Katrin to Wayne as the train begins to slow down. She looks at her watch and raises her eyebrows. “The train ride was only ten minutes.” 

She and Wayne move slowly out of the crowded train as it reaches Sagaarashiyama station, and follow the signs to the main entrance. “Hahaha, don’t get too excited.” Wayne points to a sign at the entrance. “The Sagano Bamboo Forest is still a thirty minute walk from here.”

Bella takes Wayne’s arm and the two begin walking. “Good. We can work off all that food we ate yesterday.”

An hour later, Bella and Wayne are deep in the tall bamboo forest. The wind passes through the tightly packed growth as the plants move and creak. The bamboo leaves rustle, and the plants knock gently together like wind chimes. The peaceful sound surrounds the two as they walk along the winding road, holding hands, and remembering their first walk together decades ago.

“This has been nice. Thank you, Wayne.” Bella stops and kisses Wayne on the cheek.

“You missed.” Wayne chuckles and kisses Bella gently on the lips. “It’s always been nice with you, Bella. You’re as the Japanese say, utsukushii. Beautiful.”

“Only 30 minutes or so from Kyoto city center, the towering bamboo forest is an almost shocking contrast to the urbanity surrounding it. Wooden paths weave through the dense thicket of tall bamboo stalks that reach dozens of feet into the sky, creating a canopy.” Atlas Obscura

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