We arrived at Kyoto Station on the JR Shinkansen from Tokyo after eating lunch on the train. A quick taxi ride brought us to our next residence in the Gion District of Kyoto. Gion Kinpyo is a Machiya, a traditional urban townhouse with Koshi-do sliding doors and a Fukinuke entrance hall. The home is owned by the Akiyama family who has been brewing Kinpyo Sake since the late Edo period in 1810. There were many different bottles of sake to enjoy and we were even treated to a sake bath in our traditional wooden Japanese bathtub.
I began each morning with an early bike ride through Gion. Gion is the Geisha district in Kyoto with traditional narrow streets lined with tea houses. Most of the Geisha were busy and I only saw a few late in the evening. Furmonzen Dori (street) leads right to the huge Chion-in Temple 2 blocks away. This temple was the headquarters of the Jodo Shu, a branch of Land Buddhism. A quick climb brought me to peaceful meditation rooms above the temple. This area has more than a dozen temples that were walking distance from Gion.
We spent one half day touring to see the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, and the golden Kinkakuji Temple. The weather was very hot and humid. We purchased multiple decorative fans to cool down. Next time we'll go in the winter to see the golden temple in the snow. We spent our evenings enjoying dinner in Gion. Michael especially loved the Shabu-Shabu. Lisa preferred the diverse bento boxes found nearby. The Nishiki Food market was close and provided the family with street food between meals.
We were lucky to be in Gion for the Gion Matsuri festival in July. This festival dates back to 869 and includes a procession of hand pulled floats. There are 23 Hoko and 10 Yama floats. The larger Hoko floats are almost 60' tall and weigh up to 12 tons. The largest floats require 50 pullers and 4 roof riders to clear the floats from power lines. The week was very festive and many of the local Japanese wore traditional clothing and garments for the festival. We were sad to leave Kyoto as we boarded our train to Osaka for our next adventure.
© Mark Etter Underwater Photography