Close your eyes and picture yourself in an exquisite place with lush bamboo greenery, ancient Shinto shrines, sublime Zen gardens and hearing the sound of the wooden wind chimes as the breeze passes by. Where fresh and beautifully presented seafood are served. Where elegant and colourful geishas walk gracefully along the street.
Have you figured out where the city is? That’s right, it’s Kyoto! Kyoto is the perfect place in Japan to experience the traditional Japanese culture and life! Here I have made a list of 5 ways that you can experience Kyoto like a Japanese!
1. Experience eating Japanese kaiseki (traditional multi course dinner)
One of the highlights in a Japanese ryokan is dining on “kaiseki” (a traditional, multi-course dinner). A kaiseki dinner can consist between 6 to 15 different kinds of food. The variety of food served will change according to the different months, seasons and what is freshly available at the local market. It is also depends on the area. For example, a kaiseki served in February in Kyushu would be different than a kaiseki served February in northern Honshu.
Notice how colourful and presentable a kaiseki is!
But what goes inside a kaiseki? A kaiseki is divided into 3 parts – starters, main course, shokuji (rice, miso soup and pickles) and a dessert.
For starters, you would be served an array of bite sized appetizers also known as “hassun. Soup is then served which usually consist of a simple vegetable broth with tofu.
For the main course, a Japanese food lover delicacy is served. You guessed it! It’s sashimi! The finely sliced raw fish would be served and best eaten with soy sauce and some wasabi paste. After which, smaller dishes, which consists of either seafood, vegetables or meat products, prepared by various cooking methods such as grilling and steaming are served. You would be served Nimono, a steamed/boiled dish and Yakimono, a grilled dish.
But what is Japanese food without Agemono! Deep fried crispy battered vegetables or seafood fried to perfection will be up next!
As you feast yourself with these delicious array of Japanese food, some dishes would seem almost too familiar from restaurants at home such as chawanmushi! A savoury egg custard flavoured with fish stock that contains small bits of mushrooms, chicken, ginko nuts and seafood. This dish is often seen at buffet tables in Singapore.
To finish off the main course, Sunomono, seafood or vegetables that are dressed in a vinegar based sauce, would be served as well.
Unlike most Asian countries, rice is served towards the end of the meal in a kaiseki. This allows you to be able to sample different dishes. The rice would be often mixed with barley or bamboo shoots to add different flavours and textures. Miso soup is also served to along with the rice and Tsukemono which is pickled vegetables such as picked Chinese cabbage and radish.
To end the meal, a dessert, such as seasonal fresh fruits or other light dessert is served.
Take the opportunity to try this exquisite Japanese eating experience! We recently tried a halal kaiseki meal for the very first time at Hotel Granvia Kyoto and it was truly exquisite. Here are the places where you can find halal kaiseki in Kyoto.
Address: Japan, Yubinbango 600-8216 Kyoto Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto Karasuma communication Shiokoji under Le JR Kyoto Station Central Exit
Opening hours: 7:00 – 10:00, 11:30 – 15:00 (Last Order 14:00), 17:00 – 22:00 (Last Order 21:00)
Price: Dinner kaiseki course from 8,300 JPY
P.S. Hotel Granvia is also a muslim-friendly hotel! You can book the hotel here.
Minokichi Shinhankyu Hotel Branch
Address: Shinhankyu hotel Kyoto basement 1F, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto salt alley Shinmachi Higashiiru, 600-8216
Tel: +81 (75) 343-5327
Opening hours: 11:30 -21:30 (Last Order at 21:00)
Price: Dinner kaiseki course from 7, 560JPY
Kyoto Century Hotel
Address: Japan, 600-8216 Kyoto City Shimogyo 680 East Salt road machi
Directions: A two-minute walk east from JR Kyoto Station Central Gate. A two-minute walk from Subway Kyoto Station Exit No. 5.
Price: Please contact them to enquire for price
#HHWT Tip: Please make your reservations in advance and do be sure to let them know that you’re requesting for the halal kaiseki!
2. Wander around Kyoto in a Kimono
What better way than to experience the Japanese culture than to dress up in a kimono! A kimono is the traditional clothing of the Japanese. There are shops in Kyoto that allows you to rent kimonos for a day or two. Choose an array of gorgeous kimonos from their collection! After that, wander around Kyoto and take pictures in their sublime gardens. It will definitely be a moment to remember!
The kimono is made up of
– For ladies – The kimono, the obi sash (belt), socks and sandals and a traditional bag. If you are visiting during winter a Haori (kimono jacket) to keep you warm.
– For men – A Haori, obi sash, sandal and socks and a traditional bag. They can have the option of wearing a samurai costume too!
Where you can rent a kimono in Kyoto
Price: around 3500¥
Address: Hosai Building, 353, Shiogama-cho, Nishiiru sakai-machi, Gojo-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
How to get there: Gojo Station (Karasuma Line), Gojo-Karasuma bus stop
Opening Hours: 10am to 7.30pm
Address: Kyoto-fu Kyoto-shi Shimogyo-ku Higashishiokohji-cho 721-1 Kyoto Tower Building 3F (Do check their website for their other outlets)
How to get there: From JR line, Shinkansen, Kinki Japanese line at Kyoto StationExit from central exit (north side) of Kyoto Station, go along the street on the right side of the bus station, and cross at the trafic light. Our store is on the 3rd floor of Kyoto Tower. It takes less than 2 minutes to walk from Kyoto Station. From subway, Kyoto Station or Exit the north gate toward Shijo International Conference Center, and go straight to Kyoto Tower from the Exit 2 on the left.
Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm/7pm (Timings vary according to outlets)
#HHWT Tip: Visit Kyoto in spring for her beautiful cherry blossoms or in autumn for breathtaking momiji (or autumn leaves!)
3. Visit the Shinto shrines in Kyoto
You’ve probably heard a lot about the temples in Kyoto, but Kyoto is also known for her Shinto shrines. With over 400 shrines in the city, it’s impossible to visit them all. One of the must visits would definitely be the iconic Fushimi Inari shrine. Located in southern Kyoto, this shrine is famous for having thousands of torii gates called Senbon that creates a stunning orange roof over a network of trails to the mountain. Marvel at this ancient shrine and the beautiful gardens surrounding it.
The Japanese visit this shrine to pay respect to the kami (spirits) or pray for their good fortune and happiness. However, beyond the Senbon torii gates lies an attractive mountain trail of Mount Inari just awaiting to be explored. If you would like to view Kyoto from above, take a hike up the mountain and go to the Yotsutsuji intersection about half way up the mountain. There, you can view the stunning landscape of Kyoto from above. The hike would take around 30 minutes.
Address: 68, Fukakusayabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Subway: The shrine can also be reached in a short walk from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line.
Hours: The shrine grounds and torii gates are open 24hours
4. Stay in a Japanese style house. Ryokan (Japanese inn)
Ever marvelled at a traditional Japanese house especially on Japan hour on tv and wondered what it would be like to stay in one? Why not stay in a Ryokan?
A Ryokan is a Japanese inn. The inn is constructed using traditional Japanese methods such as sliding doors and tatami (rice straw) flooring. There is often an onsen, (hot spring) where you can take a hot bath. The sleeping area would be using a futon spread on the tatami floor. A Ryokan is often situated amongst the lush greenery of the beautiful Japanese forest where you can take a break from city life and relax to enjoy picturesque Japanese landscape.
Some of these places includes a kaiseki dinner in their packages so be sure to check them out!
Yuzanso (traditional plus modernised concept)
Address: Ogoto 1-9-28, Otsu-shi, Shiga 520-0101 Japan
Subway: From Kyoto Station, JR Kosei Line 20 minutes
Website: Book here
#HHWT Tip: This Ryokan offers delicious halal kaiseki in its package!
Address: 272 Sasaya-cho, Juzuya-cho-agaru, Higashinotoin-dori-kudaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
How to get there: 3 minute by walk from JR Kyoto station.
Website: Book here
#HHWT Tip: They offer Muslim-friendly meals i.e. no pork, no alcohol.
Address: 477 Shimogawara-cho Gion, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu
How to get there: 15 minute taxi ride from JR Kyoto train station to Tamahan
#HHWT Tip: They offer Muslim-friendly meals i.e. no pork, no alcohol.
5. Experience Japanese culture at the Gion corner
Credit: kyoto gion corner
Fancy watching a Japanese Kyo-mai dance? Or perhaps try flower arrangement? Or see the traditional Japanese tea ceremony? Spend your day at Kyoto Gion Corner and learn an array of Japanese culture here!
Kyoto Gion Corner
Address: Yasaka Hall, 570-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto( by train take the Keihan Line to Gion Shijo Station,and from there it is a 5-minute walk. It is also a 10-minute walk from Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line. )
Price: Adults ¥3,150, Student (age 16-22) ¥2,200, Children (age 7-15) ¥1,900
Web: http://www.kyoto-gioncorner.com/global/en.html ((There are discounts for visitors as they would like to enrich you with the Kyoto culture! So check the website for more details!))
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and say Sayōnara and Kon’nichiwa Japan!