One of the most anticipated activities our group looked forward to was dressing up in traditional kimonos in the beautiful city of Kyoto – known as the heart of Japan. We started our day by renting bicycles, a popular way to see the city. We were warned to bike very carefully since it seems that cars – not pedestrians – have the right of way in this city. Luckily none of us had any major accident, though one person in our group did run into a bush trying to avoid a pole!
Our morning was spent biking around beautiful temples before enjoying a lunch of udon and soba noodles – delicious!
After lunch we made our way to the Kimono rental shop. We were greeted with hundreds of colors and patterns before being tasked with picking out a kimono. Getting dressed in a kimono is no easy feat. We went to the back of the shop and each had someone assist us in getting dressed. 12 layers later, a hair bun decorated with flowers, and socks with sandals meant we were ready to hit the town.
We all walked (shuffled) through the streets in our bright colors, in pursuit of Geisha Alley known as Ponto-cho. Ponto-cho is known for its narrow streets and is a Hanamichi (Geisha) district in Kyoto. It is home to many Geiko houses as well as traditional tea houses.
We then made our way to Gion, another popular district in Kyoto known for geisha. In my research I was interested to learn that geisha in Kyoto actually refer to themselves as “geiko.” Geiko means “a woman of the arts” whereas geisha means “artist” or “person of the arts.”
It was so surreal to be wandering the streets of Kyoto wearing a kimono and visiting the place were real geishas once worked (and where some still do.) We must have been quite a sight for many of the locals, several people even stopped to take our picture. It was definitely an experience we will remember forever!