Within Kyoto alone, there are more than 2000 temples and shrines—but it is not a city of just historical monuments. Beyond the temple walls are several hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. Being my second visit to this historic city, I was fortunate enough to be guided by my friends, Noda Kumi and Daisuke Rakuda, for a local look into the creative culture and local craftwork that a visitor, like myself, would have easily missed.
After departing from Nagoya at 11 in the morning, we arrived at Kyoto station just 35 minutes after by Shinkansen (for tourists, look up the JR Pass). From there, we transferred to a local subway and arrived at Marutamachi Station within 15 minutes. Our first stop was to check out a new shop called TO SEE.
At first, I was fascinated by the small typeset on TO SEE’s signage, which was quite unconventional in contrast to Kyoto’s old and historical architecture. As you enter the space, you are greeted by a small coffee stand which turns into a retail space at the back. The second floor is used for exhibitions and workshops, while the third and fourth floors are multi-purpose studios.
—12:30pm (15 min walk)
If Kumi hadn’t told me UCHU Wagashi was a Japanese sweets shop, I would have thought it was an art gallery when I entered. Tiny candies of different shapes and colours were arranged to look like trees and animals. The interior design was breathtaking with its oak cabinets, clean concrete floor and a small outdoor Japanese garden at the back.
—1:00pm (3 min walk)
Having no clue where we were off to next, stepping into Nichinichi was one of the most remarkable shop experiences I have experienced to date. After being kindly greeted at the door, we removed our shoes and passed through a beautiful narrow corridor to enter the Nichinichi gallery which was showcasing a curated selection of Japanese ceramics. The ceramics were not arranged in a gallery setting, but rather, scattered very neatly and yet naturally inside a traditional Japanese house.
—2:00pm (10 min taxi ride)
Teuchi Soba Kanei
After leaving Gallery Nichinichi, we were ready for lunch. Teuchi Soba Kanei is a Michelin restaurant specializing in soba noodles. Without coming here before, many people could have missed it due to its modest-looking exterior and understated sign. The restaurant only has around 12 seats, so on a typical afternoon the wait time can be one hour or longer. Luckily, a January weekday is a quieter season and we got seats after waiting around 15 minutes.
The kitchen is run by chef and husband Toshio Kanei, while his wife is out front taking care of the customers. The noodles are all handmade using 100% domestic buckwheat. All of us ordered the soba with duck soup, and a fried soba and tofu appetizers—they tasted simple, homemade and delicious.
—3:00pm (10 steps away)
Just couple shops down the street from Teuchi Soba Kanei is Kamisoe, and we were fortunate enough to meet and chat with owner, Ko Kado. Kado graduated in 2001 from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and worked as a graphic designer in New York. After coming back to Kyoto, he became a craftsman of woodblock printing and started his own studio after training for 5 years. His shop has a wide variety of woodblock printed stationery, envelopes, and greeting cards.
—4:00pm (20 min walk through Imamiya Shinko)
Aburi-mochi at imamiya Shrine
There couldn’t have been a more perfect way to end the day trip in Kyoto than making a last stop for some Aburi-mochi. A 1000-year-old traditional Kyoto confection, they are roasted rice cakes skewered on bamboo sticks. Served right from the grill with 11 skewers totalling only 500 yen. I feel hungry just writing this.
Tip: Find a quiet table or seating area at the back of the restaurant. Eating the Aburi-mochi with a cup of warm green tea is also highly recommended.
Coming to Kyoto for the second time made me realize that the city is best enjoyed on a less crowded day. The quietness and calmness of Kyoto is what distinguishes it from cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Kyoto offers us time to slow down and be in the moment.