From my trip diary – first day back in Kyoto after 30+ years
"I knew Kiyomizu would be packed. I was surprised at the number of Chinese tourists, but this would become a recurring theme. There was also construction going on, which would also become a recurring theme. We meandered home from there through the Ni and Sannenzaka streets. Saw many tourists wearing kimono. Assume some are Japanese, but most are Chinese. And some Muslim girls. Also saw bride photography--I think a Chinese couple. Photos and more photos. I think Kyoto must be the most photographic city in the world. You can’t really take a bad photo. We amused ourselves by going into shops. We tasted dashi, umeboshi tea and curry senbei. I made my first purchase of yuzu tōgarashi. No regrets! I should have bought more. It makes everything good. So, Marui Department Store apparently replaced Hankyu Department Store. I think I remember when the Hankyu was new. Takashimaya no longer has the hana tokei. I wonder what the downtown meeting place is now?”
In 2016 it was a real walk down memory lane for me and also a chance to introduce Kyoto to my daughter, who had left her young son in the care of her husband to join me for part of my trip. We’d fumbled around late at night trying to find our AirBnB. But we were up early and I had declared that the very first thing she needed to do was to see Kiyomizu. And there we were smack in the middle of foliage season. So, let’s just say we were not alone. No expectations there.
But that’s the thing. We walked there from our lodging which was near City Hall. And it was early enough that very few shops were open and even downtown was pretty empty. We meandered since we had no real schedule to adhere to. We headed in the general direction of Kiyomizu, depending solely on my body memory to do so. Even Gion was empty. But when we got to Kiyomizu, the crowds magically appeared. And that was fine because one always expects crowds at Kiyomizu. It adds to the festive atmosphere. And even on the grounds itself, we still found empty areas.
And that’s what I think about tourism in Kyoto. Let the tourists do all the famous places. Enjoy their joy as they take it in. And then for those of us who’ve taken the time to “know” Kyoto, well, we’ll just wander off and find our own special places. And that’s the best thing about Kyoto—that there is always something new to discover.
- Kiyomizu – 清水 Possibly the most famous temple in Kyoto. Properly called Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺because Kiyomizu is also a kind of pottery etc. Literally means “pure water.”
- dashi – だし a Japanese broth used for miso soup and other cooking. You can buy instant or make your own. If you walk through the streets early in the morning or right before dinner time, you can sometimes smell it cooking. There are so many kinds, but the smell evokes pure deliciousness for me.
- umeboshi – 梅干し pickled plum
- senbei – 煎餅 Japanese rice crackers
- yuzu – ゆず a Japanese citrus. Becoming more popular and known here in the States now.
- tōgarashi – 唐辛子 pepper
- hananadokei - 花時計 flower clock. Maybe I dreamed it because all the Googling in the world isn’t yielding a photo. It used to be the place where you’d meet up with people downtown. It was in the lobby of Takashimaya and was a clock surrounded by flowers. Maybe it was known my a different name, but I always called it the hanadokei.