Arashiyama is a cool district on the western outskirts of Kyoto, which offers the chance to experience the traditional charms of the ancient city with its well preserved historic streets. You can walk through a vibrant bamboo grove, eat a traditional Zen Buddhist meal and get up close and personal with some cute local monkeys.
Gion is Kyoto’s most famous neighbourhood and is the best place in the city to spot an elusive geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha). Located in the heart of Kyoto, it is a place where the traditional charms and mysterious allure of old Kyoto still remain. Walk in Pontocho Alley in the evening and you just might hear the distinctive clip clop sound of geta (wooden sandals) as a geisha hurries down the street on the way to her evening appointment. There are also a fantastic range of traditional Japanese restaurants, bars and teahouses to be found down some of the many side streets and alleyways of Gion.
The Higashiyama district of Kyoto is famous for its many beautiful and historic temples all located within easy walking distance of each other. The most famous is Kiyomizu-dera Temple which you can walk to in around 20 minutes from Yasaka Shrine in Gion. The journey to the ancient temple is all part of the charm and experience of Higashiyama with the narrow lanes lined with traditional wooden buildings and merchant shops selling all kinds of local crafts and souvenirs.
The Nishijin district located in the northwest of central Kyoto is the city’s famed weaving district, the source of all those stunning kimono fabrics and obi (kimono sashes). It is one of Kyoto’s most traditional neighborhoods with machiya (traditional Japanese townhouses), well-preserved streets and impressive wooden architecture. It is home to numerous clothing factories, including HOSOO, a super innovative textile company and showroom founded way back in 1688. Check out the Nishijin Textile Center for a free kimono show and a spot of shopping.
Fushimi is located in southern Kyoto and is most famous for one of Kyoto’s biggest tourist attractions, Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is, quite simply, one of the most impressive and memorable sights in all of Japan. An entire world of shrines and torii shrine gates wind their way up an entire mountain creating one of the most magical experiences in the world. Thousands of vermilion shrine gates create a visually stunning tunnel-effect, lining several paths which snake up the forested mountain to the summit. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!