Elegant. That is how I would describe Kyoto in a word, although it is a city too complex to be summarized in such a singular way. It is teeming with reminders of its ancient history, yet Kyoto is a large city with many modern touches. But I noted a quiet elegance throughout most of our stay there – from the meticulously manicured gardens, to the bright kimono, to the quiet residential homes with wooden doors, shoji screens, and pitch after pitch of beautiful clay roof tiles.
On the advice of our friend and Kyoto-guru Glen, we stayed at a ryokan (traditional Japanese lodging) instead of a Western-style hotel. And I’m so glad we did. The ryokan shared many characteristics of a Japanese home, including tatami mats on the floor, futons for sleeping, low tables and floor pillows for eating (and drinking green tea), shoji screens on the windows and even a beautiful garden. This was the view from our window, and we slept most nights with the screen pulled back so we could take advantage of the fresh, cool air.
Lee and I were so fortunate to have Glen with us every day, carting us all around the city, taking in so many fascinating sites. Each night he would present us with the itinerary for the next day, full of visits to temples, shrines, castles and gardens, with some shopping and excellent dining mixed in between.
The gardens were so beautiful, with the carefully pruned bushes, grounds that were weeded by hand, and ponds filled with koi. Even the pine trees were manicured, with needles removed to keep them from being too bushy. Nothing escaped the watchful eye of the gardeners at some of Japan’s most treasured historical sites, and the result was enchanting.
Also enchanting – the kimono. I fell in love with the kimono and all the bright fabrics and elegant obi worn by some of the Japanese. Each time I saw someone in kimono I caught myself gawking, and had to remember my manners and try not to stare.
We also had the good fortune to visit with several local Japanese, via our friend Glen, of course. We were invited to a Boy’s Day Parade by one of the locals, and I snapped so many pictures of the costumed children I probably looked like some sort of parade paparazzi. I couldn’t help but think of Camille and how much she would like to dress up too!
It was good to come home, to sleep in my bed, and – most of all – to hold my sweet girl. But I miss Kyoto already. I am so happy we made the long trip, because it was more than worth it.
(Video compilation below!)