Japan is – unexpectedly – one of my favourite destinations. The Land of the Rising Sun was never particularly high on my travel bucket list, but a crazy cheap deal on flights (thank you, Secret Flying!) meant that Japan hurtled its way onto my radar.
Jumping on a plane Amsterdam to Tokyo for just €340, my friends and I quickly gathered our dwindling funds together and jumped into a spontaneous adventure around Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, before returning back to Tokyo to head on back home.
Kyoto: the magic of zero expectations
The spontaneity of the trip meant that I had little time to build expectations. Arriving in Kyoto after a wild couple of days enjoying the karaoke bars and sake of Tokyo, I realised that I had actually only ever heard of this city as the former capital of Japan, and in reference to Geisha. Was this a city of geisha? Do geisha even exist any more? Why is Kyoto known for Geisha? WHERE AM I!?
Checking into an immaculate hostel – complete with traditional Japanese sleeping mats, sliding paper doors and a very enthusiastic Japanese host – I settled into answering some of my questions. Stepping out on to the spotless sidewalks, it soon became clear that – geishas or not – Kyoto was an altogether magical, mythical, mysterious place.
The rain persisted for three pleasant days – making a romantic backdrop for our oblivious explorations. We decided to aimlessly roam around Kyoto for the duration of our time there, discovering ancient temples and deserted cafes with our umbrellas held high above our heads.
We actually saw many, many geishas in and around the beautiful ancient gardens of Kyoto but, whether that is the most famous thing about Kyoto or not (and really, or not – I have no idea), it wasn’t what drew me into the city. It was the atmosphere, the aesthetic, the rain! For once, I fell in love with a city without planning every immaculate detail and settled instead for approaching Kyoto with a completely blank mind.
Photo by the awe-some Tessie van Hintum