Kyoto blends modern and ancient worlds

Arriving to Kyoto was like stepping out of a time capsule. A group of Geishas in traditional dress skipped past me quickly in the newly built, ultra-modern train station.  The girls brought a punch of color with their bright kimonos, giggling as they rushed past me.

Once I got to the streets of the newer area of Kyoto, pop-top music filled the air, pumped out from nearly invisible speakers staggered along the main street. Staggering mountains surround the city in all directions.  Kyoto is big enough to offer a city life feel, but small enough so you won’t feel lost. It’s a lively city with a small town feel. I’m in the modern part, but only blocks away from Gion, the ancient town that’s hundreds of years old and just on the other side of the river.

People in  are dressed nicely in Kyoto – many buzzing around on a transit commute from work. The downtown has some glam, high end clothing shops, but with plenty of trendy inexpensive, mainstream clothing stores too.

The streets are busy but orderly, with large lanes criss-crossed by narrow alleys. At night most cars that line the streets are taxis that look like old Bentleys from the 1950’s with bright crown emblems on top of the roofs. There must be some ordinance banning commuter cars because these taxis are everywhere!

The air on the main street smells amazing from all the restaurants tucked into the side alleys. No one cooks on the streets in Kyoto, unlike many other major cities in Asia.

The narrow alleys are my favorite parts of Kyoto. They’re fun to explore and get lost in! Though in general they’re easy to navigate and are brimming with cools shops and tiny, mysterious looking restaurants with entrances partially hidden by linen curtains with logos blowing in the breeze. Hibachi grills, Yakitori, freshly made Ramen noodle soup, rice, sushi and lots of sake. A ton of restaurants have bars positioned in the front windows, and hold only a few seats! Ten people at most. There are so many of these I’m not sure how people pick where to go. Maybe they just eventually go to all of them – I would! This reminds me a little of the area of Tokyo called Golden Gai, but its more spread out all throughout Kyoto’s downtown, instead of restricted to a few city blocks.

Written by Suzi Albrecht
Digital Project Manager and Traveler