Boxing Day and something completely new! We took a tour of the old Imperial palace in Kyoto.
You have to book ahead, and this used to be done in writing, by mail! But now it can be done online. Japanese citizens are simply notified of the day and must accommodate it, visitors from overseas can nominate a day/time when a tour is offered. I had never done this (the whole by mail thing) and we booked it for this visit. It is free http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/Kyoto.html
We booked the first tour of the day (10 am) and trekked off at about 9, in order to ensure we were there 20 minutes before, as instructed. Much of the grounds have been turned into a large park.
We arrived in time, dutifully formed a line, as instructed, and showed our tickets to at least two different people. We then got to wait inside. It was cold.
The palace is no longer lived in. It was used for some ceremonies in the 20th century, but almost none now. The tour does not go inside, it’s all looking at the outside. There are a couple of places where you can see inside, but these are few. For a few days each year it is opened up mores, and thousands come in to view the interior paintings (while standing outside).
It was interesting, if a little dry and the weather was cold.
The garden was nice
Once the tour was done we headed back to the station, and ended up having some coffee and cake
Next up? Misuyabari, the needle place we had tied the day before. I had never heard of them before but two different blogs mentioned them. It’s a 400 year old needle maker and shop! This blog post does a much better job of explaining and directions.
We went down a hall…
And into a garden
The needle shop is in the back of the photo
It’s tiny. I bought some needles and a tiny travel sewing box and some pincushions.
After the needles we went back to a bakery we had passed for lunch. To do so we wandered the backstreets around the shopping area. There are lots of quirky shops, and it is key to remember that some of them are not on the ground floor. We found a yarn shop (Avril) I had noted for visiting (from blogs) by accident, going in to a building for a TinTin store.
Their website http://www.avril-Kyoto.com/ytop.php
The side streets and alleys can be fascinating. We eventually wound up wandering through Pontocho, which is one of the old entertainment districts. It used to have geisha (not sure about now) and was the district Liza Dalby lived in when she was writing her book about geisha. Now it’s mostly bars and restaurants
The alley runs,parallel to the river, and there are spaces where you can see it.
At the end of the alley we turned onto the river path, and came back along that. At this point in the river it is very man mad- the river bed is bricks and cobblestones! Entirely lined and directed.
My phone was having trouble with the light- this is at the same time as the other photos, just in the other direction.
There are many restaurants and bars that look out over the river- premium dining, especially in the summer!
We ended,the walk at Shijo bridge, the main way into Gion, across the river.
It did get darker during the walk.
A bit of shopping (looking at hats and gloves) and back to the hotel to rest.