Winter still has its grip on Japan. The temperatures remain resolutely close to freezing each day. But when the sun pops out, as it often does, it takes away the chill and reminds me that spring is just around the corner.
The Keihan Railway has a direct train from Ōsaka to Kyōto every 10 minutes that takes about 50 minutes and costs just ¥400. The Shinkansen is noticeably faster at 15 minutes travel time but I would need to get to the Shin-Ōsaka station first so it really isn’t much faster.
I alight at Shichijō Station to start my walking tour of the southern area of Higashiyama (東山: eastern mountains).
At first glance Kyōto is no different to any other modern city. Urban. Busy. Generally uninteresting on the surface.
But I’m assured that the beauty and charm of this cultural Mecca is found behind walls and fences.
Each is fascinating in its own right. I only wish I was here in spring as the blossoms would then be in full bloom rather than just beginning to bud as they are now.
A couple of streets are also worth a closer look: Ishibei-kōji and Shirakawa Minami-dōri near Shirakawa River (白川: white river). Ironically, the so-called “river” looks more like a stream but it’s still a very quaint canal.
It’s in this vicinity that I catch a glimpse of a geisha (芸者), or geiko (芸子) as they’re called in Kyōto. Or at the very least a maiko (舞子: apprentice geisha).
I feel like a paparazzi stalking these pretty young things who are all dressed up and on their way to perform at a dinner date.
And I’m in luck! She agrees to a quick snapshot. Mission accomplished!
Images and more information to come.