Kyoto Night Walk

The Shinkansen got me back to Kyoto, from Osaka, in 14 minutes. So nice.

I decided to have tonkatsu again for dinner, this time at another KYK Tonkatsu location in the Kintetsu Mall Miyakomichi that was located in the south side of Kyoto Station. This location was “fancier” than the one in Porta. The menu had different cuts of meat and sauces were different. However, it was still delicious!

After eating, I went to Aeon Mall behind Kyoto Station to pick up a couple things. I hit the Baby’s “R” Us for my daughter, Muji for my wife and myself( I bought a great business card case!) and then the supermarket to buy some food for the morning. I went back to the room to drop off my purchases and some camera gear then raced back down to get the rest of the night moving. By now, it was definitely looking like rain and as a result, the humidity was very high. I was a sweat machine again!

The night’s plan was to head over to the Pontocho and Gion areas and slowly wander around to see if anything fun was happening. I wasn’t out to chase Geisha and harass them for photographs or anything like that, rather just to soak in the atmosphere of the night. I decided to take a cab to save time in getting there since it was now about 9:30pm. The cab ride was a quiet one aside from the basic pleasantries exchanged with the cab driver.

I paid my fare and got out of the taxi next to the Takashimaya department store, near the southwest corner of the big intersection of Kawaramachi-dori and Shijo-dori (“dori” is street in Japanese, FYI). It’s a big intersection and I’d love to show you a great photo of it but I didn’t bring a wide enough lens on this nighttime walk to cover it. My widest angle lens is a 17-40mm and I don’t really shoot it hand held at night as it’s a bit slow aperture-wise and I didn’t want to bring the tripod on the walk. Next time.

I crossed to the north side of the street, then headed east along Shijo-dori. I love this street with its covered walkway and many shops. Close to here (behind me as walked now) is Nishiki Market which runs parallel to Shijo-dori as well as the great covered shopping arcade that it connects to. (I’ll be coming back to both of those places tomorrow before I leave.) Since it was late now, most of the shops I was walking past were closed or closing and it seemed most of the people were either home or inside somewhere enjoying themselve’s. The rainy weather probably wasn’t helping to bring the people out either. It was lightly raining/ drizzling when I caught my cab at Kyoto Station but had subsided over the course of my short ride. You could tell it was going to rain harder soon though; you could feel it in the air, so much humidity. People had their umbrellas ready.

I made it to the alley known as Pontocho, made a left turn and wandered in. It’s a narrow alley that runs the length of one block, north-south, between Shijo-dori and Sanjo-dori with the Kamo river just to the east if it and it’s filled with restaurants that go from inexpensive to very expensive (and exclusive). Tonight, with the rain, it had an extra bit of atmosphere, the lights and lanterns reflecting so beautifully on the wet stone pavement. It was also so quiet, just a few people here and there. I only saw maybe  3 or 4 other tourists.

The rain finally started to come down and I stepped under a covered doorway to put my rain cover on my camera bag when a young married couple stopped to ask me my opinion of the restaurants on the alley. They were westerners as well and it was their first time in Kyoto- they were a little overwhelmed by it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much help on the food issue since I’ve never eaten any place on the alley (not sure why that is to be honest).  They had come down to the Pontocho to hopefully see some Geisha and were disappointed that they hadn’t seen any. (I’ve got some thoughts on tourists and the draw of the Geisha but I’ll leave that for another post since it’s too long of a topic to get into now).  They were very nice and it was nice to chat for a few minutes about their trip. I wished them luck on the rest of their evening and went on my way, into the rain.

I just wandered around for a while, eventually reaching the north end of the alley. I turned around and decided to walk back back down the alley again, for one more view of the Pontocho. When I reached Shijo-dori again I went left and headed over to the Gion, a short walk away. It was so quiet, it was fantastic.

I had been walking about an hour and a half by now and I was starting to get tired. Part of me was feeling old for not pushing myself to stay out even later, maybe explore some bars or something, but I decided that it was time to call it a night and head back to the hotel. It had been a pretty busy day.

I was back on Shijo-dori, walking west. The rain had let up but it was still drizzling.  The taxi’s were lined up waiting for passengers but nobody was getting in. I decided to wait and grab a taxi where I started the night and kept walking. The walk was so nice and I was really enjoying how quiet it was, it just didn’t seem like a big city at the moment.

I caught my taxi just around the corner from where I initially started the night. A short ride back to the station, a quick walk through the empty hotel lobby, up the elevator and I was back in my room.

I clicked on the TV, started the nightly routine of downloading and backing up my photos, had a little snack and started packing my stuff to make the morning easier. Tomorrow, it was back to Tokyo for the final three days of the trip and I wanted to get out of the room early and see a couple more things before I departed. What a great day it had been…

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