Discovering Kyoto – The Imperial Palace, Golden Pavilion & Gion

We started our last day of visiting Kyoto with a tour of the Imperial Palace. Since a booking is compulsory and the English speaking group was sold out, we joined a Japanese guided tour.

I was a bit disappointed by the Imperial Palace and even got too lazy to take my camera out.

I was expecting something more… spectacular, probably the influence from all the Chinese Imperial buildings.

We followed up with a (once again) very crowded visit of Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. Once again a bit disappointing since the interior can’t be visited. But I’ll admit that the building itself is very elegant.


After lunch we walked around Gion, the Geisha district, with its beautiful wooden houses and small backstreets. Geishas still exist in Japan, in dwindling numbers. Tourists are VERY keen on seeing them, so much so that signs encouraging good behavior have been put up along the walls of the district.

Geishas are hard to come across as they usually work in high class tea houses and get dropped off by taxi just in front of the door. We were very lucky to see one (from behind) and got a good view of her beautiful kimono.

Last year, we stumbled across an apprentice geisha in one of the back streets, far from tourists and even got a nice close up shot of her as she hurried by.


With so many women walking around Kyoto in kimonos or made up as Geishas, it’s difficult to tell who’s real and who’s fake.

A real geisha will be seen for a few seconds only, the time it takes her to walk from her taxi to the tea house door.

They also walk very fast on their traditional wooden Geta shoes and will not give a second look to tourists, let alone stop for pictures.


We finished the day by strolling around the Yasaka Shrine, on the east side of Gion.

There was a Geisha dancing performance but we manage to miss it! It’s a shame as this is one of the rare opportunities to see Geishas perform, since one needs good connections and decent money to have tea with them in an ochaya (tea house).



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