Allison Day


For the month of January, 2013

After spending the morning going in circles, we once again left our hotel, and walked to the train station. This time we went to the station nearest us, which – go figure – was not a JR Station. However this time, we had an actual goal in mind.

Double decker train

At Son’s suggestion, we were heading to the Gion area of Kyoto – an area famous for its Geishas (or, as they’re called in Kyoto, Geiko).

Historical building in Gion area

We took the local subway to the Gion-Shijo station, which let out on Shijo street, which is the main street in the Gion area.

The main street in the Gion area

Street in the Gion area

It’s a busy street, and obviously caters to tourists.

Signs on the main street in the Gion area

Man on a motorbike

Maiko on the main street


Eventually we turned down a side street, and just wandered.

Beautiful houses down a side street in the Gion area

Smaller street lined with restaurants in the Gion area

A restaurant in the Gion area

We found our way to one of the busier side streets, where there was a traffic jam of cars lined up all the way up and down the street.

Cars lined up in the street


According to a woman on flkr who is apparently familiar with the Gion area, this is a lantern in front of the Tama ochaya (tea house).


It was the time of day when the maiko were beginning to make their way around the area.

Large building next to a theatre

Woman with umbrella and two dogs

Alley in Gion

This narrow alley holds the entrances to the two most popular okiya (geisha houses) in Gion Kobu: the Tama (left sign) and the Tsurui (the right sign).

A geisha getting mobbed by tourists wanting to take her photo

We also saw one or two geisha… or at least, we got quick glimpses before the poor geisha got mobbed by tourists wanting to take photographs. We kept our distance, but some people had no problem getting right up in her face, crowding all around her to take their pictures. Crazy.

Alley in Gion

Back alley in Gion

Street in Gion

We headed off on another side street to avoid the crowds and try to see more of the area, and ended up at a temple.

Structure in the middle of the park

Park in Gion

We wandered the temple grounds for a bit, Son taking pictures, me taking pictures of him taking pictures.

My view for most of the trip

A pathway in the park

It was late enough in the afternoon that everything was closed, but it was a beautiful, serene area.

Pathway out of the park

Entrance to a restaurant in Gion

A restaurant in Gion

A cafe

Crossing the river

By that time we were getting pretty hungry, so we headed across the river to try to find somewhere to eat…

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Our first whole day in Kyoto was such a jam-packed day that I’m splitting it into three posts. Looking back, I can hardly believe we managed to fit so much into one day… and yet can now totally understand why I was so sore I could barely move that night.

Kyoto street

We started the morning off walking to Kyoto station from our hotel.

Curry pan

We stopped by a tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery to buy a curry pan, which unfortunately was one of the few not-so-good things we ate on the entire trip.

Kyoto street

Kyoto alley

River in Kyoto

Kyoto street

Kyoto street

Smaller river in Kyoto

We managed to find our way to Kyoto Station, and then spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out where we wanted to go.

View of Kyoto Tower between two maps

We were looking for a park, somewhere that we could sit and eat the onigiri we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning, and take some time to relax after the hectic week in Tokyo.


All we found were temples… and somehow it felt like it would be a little weird to go to a temple just to sit, eat, and read.

Allison looking at a map

So instead we went to Mister Donut.

Donuts at Mr. Donut

Mister Donut (along with Bassanova and Beard Papa’s) are one of our must-visit places when we go to Japan. We had already gone once in Akihabara, on our third day in Tokyo. But obviously, once was not enough.

Chocolate pon de ring doughnut

We got a chocolate pon de ring doughnut, and a ginger doughnut (which was one of their summer specials – they had a huge ginger promotion going on while we were there.) The chocolate was good, but the ginger was better. A nice strong ginger flavor, with a delicious white chocolate frosting.

Ginger doughnut


We also had a bottle of mugicha and a tamago onigiri that we had bought at Family Mart earlier that morning.

Tamago onigiri wrapper

Tamago onigiri

Display for the upcoming Tanabata festival

Mister Donut

After we ate, we were all ready to head out… and then we realized that someone (*cough* me *cough*) had forgotten their JR Pass at the hotel. Oops. Guess we weren’t going anywhere after all.


Instead, we explored the train station, and wandered around the food mall downstairs.

Pastry shop

Tsukemono shop

Mochi shop

We love these food malls (you may remember we were kind of obsessed with the one in Ueno station while we were in Tokyo), because they always have so many delicious things to buy!

Mochi shop

Godiva shop

Grocery store cashier

Fried foods shop


Potatoes and pork

Maki sushi

Maki sushi and inari-zushi

Maki sushi

Inari zushi


Bento shop

Inari sushi shop

Yakitori shop

Yakitori shop


Salad shop

Taiyaki shop

Worker flipping taiyaki

Tempura shop

Meat shop

Pastry shop

Confectionary shop

Cake shop

Chocolate pudding cups

Son is kind of obsessed with creme bruleé, so we bought one at a fancy dessert shop.

Fruit cups

Confectionary shop

Mochi shop


Confectionary shop

Purse shop

Kyoto tower

Creme brulee box

We headed back out of the station, and sat on a ledge to eat the creme bruleé.

Shattering creme brulee

It was just as good as it looked. It shattered perfectly, and the custard was creamy and smooth. One of the better creme bruleés we’ve had.

Creme brulee

A building near Kyoto Station

… and then we got to walk back to our hotel.


It was a very hot day, so we took a little break and ate onirigi and a bag of chips, before heading off to our next adventure…

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