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Kyoto Confidential

Kyoto Confidential

By Scott Haas

Scott Haas earned his Ph.D in Clinical Psychology from the University of Detroit in 1983. He is the author of the book and Boston Globe’s bestseller “Are We There Yet?” a book about global family traveling. He is also the author of “Hearing Voices” and co-author of The Da Silvano Cookbook. Scott was the producer, writer and on air talent for the National Public Radio affiliate in Boston, WBUR, where he reported for the noon show “Here and Now.” On the show he interviewed chefs, farmers, fisherman and restaurateurs. For this he won the James Beard award for Best Radio Host in 2004. Scott has written many feature pieces for such publications as Gourmet, The Boston Globe, Wine Enthusiast, Gastronomica and many more.

Kyoto is Japan’s most manageable city, one of the world’s greatest walking cities, and perfect for biking, too. It’s laid out on a grid so getting lost is a choice rather than an inevitability. Walk, rent bicycles, or even take public transportation, which is reliable, clean, and efficient. Many people understand English. Don’t be surprised if people in Kyoto come up to you in markets or in bars and strike up a conversation. The city’s ancient temples are beautiful and evocative and their carefully laid out compounds seem to have been designed by the gods themselves. But after the spiritual journey is over, what’s next you wonder?
For centuries both Japanese and foreigners have flocked to this old imperial capital to explore its vistas – not just the temples, but the narrow alleyways lined with clubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as the brick streets lit magically like movie sets in the old pleasure quarter of Gion. Having never been bombed during the war, Kyoto’s untarnished architecture is typically no more than three stories high, and it’s varied and very beautiful.
The only thing you need to know about visiting Kyoto is that if you go in summer, to see and perhaps participate in the famous Gion Matsuri summer festival, come prepared to sweat. The city is kind of trapped in a long valley, and in July and August, the humidity and heat can be unbearable.

Other than that, Kyoto is worth your time and repeat visits. It’s one of the most beautiful cities on earth with long, lovely streets lining canals, ancient architecture set alongside the modern, a beautiful river that has good cafes and bars and restaurants lining its banks, views of the hills and mountains, people who are reserved but unpretentious, and a range of possibilities for dining that won’t set you back financially.

Stay Amongst History

<div>Kyoto has some old, restored machiya, or townhouses available for short stays. These are small, wooden structures, evident throughout Japan, but fewer in number today since many are being torn down. They are a delightful throwback to old Japan before Westernization took hold. I rented a charming one situated among the canals and side streets close to the river and only a few miles from the train station. We had to use a code to enter and after we punched in the numbers and slid open the polished, blond wooden door, we found ourselves in a tiny stone alcove opening into the main room, which was the entire width and length of the house. An upstairs tatami room with big futons and pillows mirrored it in size. The scale of everything was quite small and the walls bare. The only sound was the purr of the A/C unit. Downstairs and adjacent to the main room was a sink, a mini refrigerator and a stove with two burners, all pristine with gleaming metal surfaces and everything super-hygienic. To the rear was an outdoor stone garden situated next to a sunken tub, bathroom, and shower. Having removed our shoes at the stone alcove, we walked barefoot on the straw matting and took in its calming aura.<br />
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Once you establish your address&mdash;hotel, ryokan or house&mdash;you must start exploring.</div>

Whether Chopsticks or Fork & Knife, You Won’t Leave Hungry

 Along with the aesthetics, Kyoto, especially nowadays, has wonderful dining for every taste and budget.

Whether it is high-end, elegant kaiseki at three star Michelin restaurants helmed by world-famous chefs, grilled Japanese beef, yakitori, udon, ramen, anago, hamo, unagi, or tonkatsu, the array of what’s on the plate is remarkable. Or, should you wish to have Western food or the cuisines of other Asian countries, Kyoto offers, without exaggeration, some of the best pizza, pasta, baguettes, curries, halal, and Chinese food on the globe.

Throughout the city, three-star Michelin dining, vetted by culinary experts, offer meals that are so memorable as to have the potential to become cultural memories of a trip to Japan. 
Please come hungry to Kyoto! You will leave feeling satisfied, your belly full, and your senses awake to the pleasures of food.


Arts & Crafts

A city with traditional crafts and innovative art


Temples & Shrines

Highlighted temples & shirines, including 17 World Heritage Sites