This city used to be the capital of government and empire from 794 until it shifted to Tokyo in 1868. As a result, the place is probably more endowed with holy places, palaces and UNESCO Heritage sites than any other in Japan.
If there are any regrets about our itinerary, it is that we only have two days.
We’ve arrived too early for check in, so we ditch the bags, and head off to Nishiki Market, a covered alley which stretches for three city blocks, lined with every imaginable type of stall: food, pottery, gifts. We do what the locals do – sample from the merchandise as we squeeze our way between the crowds. Scallops, yakitory sticks, W finds some duck, a perennial favourite with him.
By the time we get to the end we decide we need to get some ‘proper’ food, and find a place with some room. Some kimono-clad young women are sampling the food, and look like they’re enjoying it. Unfortunately, when we are seated and order, it turns out that what everyone is queuing to eat are those same plasticine/goo, this time with a selection of toppings, including peanut butter?? We manage to eat more of the dishes, but I must say, I am not going back for more – ever! As we leave the restaurant we see how the gooey things are made – I assume from rice starch: one person makes a doughy paste out of it, and the other chap takes a mallet and pounds the bejeezes out of the it. EVER!!
Our hotel is conveniently located in the Gion area of Kyoto, so we wander the neon-lit sights in the hope of meeting a geisha, but no luck tonight. Best sighting opportunities are between 6 and 9pm, when the can be found rushing to appointments, usually surrounded by tourists (including Japanese, who are particularly scorned by the young women) trying to snap pictures. W seems to think they work in brothels, but I know that they are highly trained courtesans, and it usually has nothing to do with sex.