On this day: Kyoto, Japan

See more from my On This Day series here, where I celebrate travel memories on their trip anniversaries.

On November 10, 2018, I was in Kyoto, Japan.

Following a lovely several days in Seoul and Busan, South Korea, we flew over to Kyoto to begin the Japan portion of our East Asia trip.

We managed to accomplish a lot on our first day in Kyoto. Home to some 2000 temples and shrines, numerous gardens, and traditional teahouses, this city in the Hansai region offered us ample opportunity to explore the history and culture of Japan.

After settling into our little guesthouse on the previous evening, we awoke early for our first excursion at Camellia Tea in the Gion District, where we had booked a tea ceremony. The Japanese tea ceremony, known as chadō  “The Way of Tea”, is a tradition steeped in history (pun intended). Dating back to the 9th century, it involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha green tea, a practice influenced by Zen Buddhism and considered as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kōdō incense appreciation and kadō flower arrangement.

During our visit to Camellia Tea, we watched a performance of the tea ceremony, which we followed by preparing a bowl of matcha ourselves.

After the ceremony, we headed out to see more of Gion District. This area is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, bordered by Yasaka Shrine in the east and Kamo River to the west. Traditional wooden machiya merchant houses line the streets, and the area attracts numerous tourists who venture over for the shops, restaurants, and many teahouses.

Once we had tired Mr. Chuckles out from exploring one too many trinket shops, we went on in search of lunch at Nishiki Market. This narrow, five block long shopping street is filled with over 100 restaurants and shops serving all things food. It was quite crowded but we managed to try out several delicious items.

As evening approached, we headed back toward Gion, where we had reserved tickets for Gion Odori. This is one of five annual public performances put on by each of the geisha districts in Kyoto. Most of them are scheduled in the spring during cherry blossom season, but we were lucky to have arrived in Kyoto right on time for the sole and final autumn performance in Gion, which takes places every year from November 1st to 10th. Although we could not understand the dialogue and missed out on their jokes, we enjoyed this one hour show featuring traditional dance by the beautifully dressed geiko and maiko. A particular highlight was when Mr. Chuckles was gifted a paper crane by one of the geiko in the midst of the performance.

Finally, to cap off our eventful day, we had what I would eventually declare as my favourite meal in Japan, a kaiseki dinner at Michelin starred Gion Nanba.

Twelve courses of delectable Japanese delicacies later, we were happily fed and ready to rest up in preparation for our next adventure in Kyoto.