Kyoto is the perfect place to travel at a slower pace and really immerse yourself in some authentic Japanese cultural experiences. Here are some suggestions for where to stay and what to do in Kyoto for a taste of the traditional side of Japan.
Stay in a Ryokan
On my first visit to Kyoto I stayed at a Ryokan, which is a traditional style inn. It was quite the experience, and just what we needed to help us relax on out holiday.
The Ryokan was called TOWA, and even though I’d booked an 8 tatami mat room (number of tatami floor mats indicates size), we were upgraded to a suite, lucky us!
Upon check-in we were treated to a cup of matcha green tea and a sweet. It was the first time I’d tried this type of delicious tea, but not the last…
As you can see in the picture, we sat and slept on the floor. I must say the unless you sleep on your back, futons aren’t that comfortable, my big pokey out hips and boney shoulders were screaming out for a nice soft mattress and fluffy pillow.
The breakfast was amazing and was served in our room, you can see pics of it here (along with my terrible bed hair).
There was a large communal bathing room in the basement, which I probably didn’t take advantage of enough, but we also had our own private bathroom facilities. Phew!
I would definitely stay there again, and a suite would be ideal for a family.
Oh and no shoes allowed on the tatami mats…
Try on a kimono
And here is my impulse buy, a secondhand kimono and obi. Bought on a late night walk home in a little hole in the wall shoppe that smelt like old stuff and cats. I can’t resist the smell of old stuff. I wasn’t intending on buying a kimono, but just thought it would be fun to try it on.
Well after the lady fussed about getting everything just right and tied the obi so beautifully, I felt super special, and of course wanted to wear it home.
I told her I’d never be able to re-tie the obi, and she just giggled and said ‘ You Tube’. Now who wants to have a costume party so I can wear my new (old) kimono?
You don’t need to buy a kimono – there are many places where you can rent one for the day. Some businesses will even offer a photography service for the perfect portrait.
Tea Ceremony Experience in Kyoto
One traditional experience I would really recommend would be a Tea ceremony class. It was fascinating and mesmerizing watching our hostess prepare the tea. Every movement was mindful and controlled with meaning behind it.
She described it as a kind of meditation which is part of her everyday life, it centers and grounds her. We even got to whisk up our own tea, mine turned out a little weak as the amount of powder I used was less than adequate.
Check availability and book your Tea Ceremony Experience here