After the frenetic but fascinating Nishiki Market, it took us a 600 meter walk to cross the invisible line between busy and bustling Kawaramachi to serene and quiet Gion.
You make a turn into Shijo street and just walk across the bridge.
This is the Kamogawa or the Kamo River. As we walked along the bridge, it was tempting to see people sitting by the banks, just hanging out and enjoying the mild September afternoon.
I can never resist the lure of a truly local experience. If relaxing by the Kamogawa was what locals did on a Saturday afternoon -- well, who was I to pass up this opportunity to do the same thing?
I would have wanted to slide down the embankment and get my feet wet. The river was running quick but shallow and there were children actually playing in the water.
But age (and good sense) prevailed and I decided to stay put, take off my shoes and just chill .....
But not for long.
The sun was setting fast so we had to cut short our people and river watching if we wanted to walk through Gion District --Kyoto's most famous area for geisha watching.
This is the famous kabuki theatre Minamiza, centuries old and still very much in use today. Maybe next visit, we can watch a kabuki or noh play here.
Here we are, in this small alley leading to Shinbashi, one of Kyoto's most beautiful streets and right in the heart of Gion. Would we get to see a geisha? I hated to think we were stalking them as if we were on a geisha safari -- these are regular women after all, with regular lives like yours and mine ...
but still, it would be nice to see one in the flesh.
Then, as if on cue, this young lady glided by -- she looked quite young so I surmised she must still be a maiko or an apprentice geisha. Probably walking on her way to work. This unexpected sighting, of this young girl all decked out in her geisha kimono was definitely a gift -- thank you, Kyoto!
And as if that serendipitous encounter was not enough to seal the evening's charms -- here was another charming tableau -- a small heron or was it an egret -- posing for everyone in this clear little stream called the Shirakawa that runs right through the area. So picture perfect!
Shinbashi is not called Kyoto's prettiest street for nothing. It's cobblestoned, has the Shirakawa, a clean and burbling little stream running right through it and has old traditional buildings that run from end to end. A small shrine is right in the middle of the street -- with the traditional red torii and lit up for the evening.
We were lucky enough to have witnessed this newly wed couple garbed in traditional wedding attire posing by the small bridge. I took this discreet photo from across the street but a lot of tourists didn't seem to worry about intruding on their privacy and were happily snapping away.
We walked through Hanami koji, which runs parallel to Shinbashi. The evening crowds had not yet arrived and we had this normally crowded street to ourselves. Traditional architecture, cobble stoned streets -- a combination that never fails to please, no matter where you are.
As we strolled along, we saw many small and old restaurants like these -- definitely hiding the culinary secrets and treasures of Kyoto. Next time, I may gather up the nerve to actually walk in and have dinner.
Shinbashi dori is a short, lovely walk -- we reach the end and look back to see the street lights now lit up, wrapping the evening in a soft, warm glow.
I had to tear myself away and leave this place that seems to exist in another time -- I literally calmly exhaled all the tiredness of a long day of sightseeing and yes, the frustration of getting lost... I felt that slipping away from me too.
Kyoto was continuing to slowly unfold her irresistible and varied charms to me and I was slowly being put under her spell.