During my time in Japan I took a bullet train (Nozomi) from Tokyo to Kyoto and reached my destination in an amazing 2 hours 20 mins! Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and is found on the island of Honshu. Honshu is Japan’s main island and home to most of the country’s major cities and cultural sites.
I spent the night here in a Ryokan. Ryokan are traditional Japanese style inns found throughout the country, especially in hot spring resorts. Here I was treated to traditional Japanese hospitality, intimate and minimalist in style with tatami floors, futon beds and Japanese style communal bath tubs. The bath tubs have an area with a row of stools, mirrors water taps and shower heads. Little did I know that the done thing is to sit on one of the stools first to have a wash, then to rinse with the shower head BEFORE entering the bath tub. The water in the tub is supposed to be kept clean for bathers at all times and there I was merrily sat in the tub scrubbing away with my soap in true tourist fashion! The moral of the story folks is to always read up on cultural etiquette before travelling to far off lands…
Kyoto itself is considerably calmer and more compact than Tokyo. It is famed for its numerous classical Buddhist temples, as well as gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional wooden houses. It is well known for its enduring traditions such as kaiseki dining and kimono-clad geisha, female entertainers often found in the Gion district.
Gion is full of old-style Japanese houses, some of which are ochaya (tea houses). I was lucky enough to take part in a traditional tea ceremony in an ochaya where in addition to the ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, the evening's entertainment also includes cocktails, traditional Japanese music along with singing and dancing. It was a truly magical experience!
Lining the Kamo River you will find a plethora of small, cosy bars. Traditionally, the locals will pay the equivalent of £10 for a seat and then spend the evening exclusively at one venue. As I was on a mission to see as many sights as possible, the bar owners were amazed to see me move on after one drink in each establishment! No such thing as a pub crawl here. While there is an English themed pub, I would most definitely recommend the smaller, traditional style bars for a truly Japanese experience.
If any of this appeals to you then contact our sales team for a proposal to combine one of our weekend ground packages to the Semi-Finals and/or Final and add our 3 night break to Kyoto in the days between semis & final.
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