From tea to traditional buildings, exploring Kyoto’s heritage
Tea, temples, mountains and machiya – for a taste of Japanese culture, Kyoto has it all. Explore this ancient city from the innovative Enso Ango Fuya II – a calming, luxury hotel spread over five zen-inspired buildings. Wander the pathways between the hotel, uncovering traditional arts in Gion, sampling every-colour sashimi and glimpsing geisha as you go.
A few scenic steps from Enso Ango is Nishiki Market, a five-block stretch of stalls, restaurants and stunning shop displays. Let your nose guide you to sweet, fresh sashimi stands and stalls selling handmade soaps and souvenirs. The market can get very busy, and not everything is easily translated, but if you prefer to know exactly what you’re eating you can book a guide before you go.
TEA AND TATE
With so much to see in the bustling streets around the hotel, it can be surprisingly easy to miss the quiet rituals and ceremonies that define this ancient city. For those who want to delve a little deeper into the Japanese way of life, WAK Japan offer authentic Kyoto experiences – from calligraphy and origami to Tate (sword fighting) and sushi rolling. Their tea ceremony and formal Kimono wearing lessons offer enticing insights into the subtleties of Japanese culture.
Within day trip distance from Enso Ango is the Wazuka region, known for its premium Japanese tea. Get to know your tencha from your sencha and take a guided tour at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. The English-speaking staff will guide you through the tea fields at mountain foothills and into the factory where the tea is processed, before lunch and an interactive tea tasting.
With over 1500 temples and shrines in Kyoto alone, it would take a lifetime to appreciate each elaborate detail of Japan’s spiritual structures. Navigating the city on foot is a great way to take in the must-see monuments, and there are easy Shinkansen links to the landmark temples outside of Gion. Walk under the 10,000 red torii gates winding through Fushimi Inari Shrine, wonder at the glittering gold Kinkaku-ji temple, and drink water from the mountain spring at Kiyomizu-dera, for good luck.
As you wander between the five hotel buildings, make your way 15 minutes north toward the Rokkaku-do temple. This florally decorated landmark is the original home of ikebana, or flower arranging. The accompanying museum gives explanations of the history and craft of ikebana, both in Japanese and English, so you can fully appreciate the art form adorning the temple.
Theatre is a mainstay of Japanese culture, and Kyoto is a hub for the dramatic arts. The most well-known form of theatre here is kabuki, an exaggerated, dramatic and often acrobatic spectacle that tells tales of love, death and revenge. It’s always worth seeing if there is a performance available, even if you don’t speak Japanese. The Minami-za Theatre is a ten minute stroll from the Enso Ango hotel, and, founded in 1610, is widely considered to be the birthplace of kabuki.
MATCHA MADE IN HEAVEN
If you’re looking to bring a little of Japan home with you, tea makes an excellent souvenir. For premium teas make your way to Ippodo Tea Shop on Teramachi-dori, just along from the Imperial Palace. Customers are encouraged to taste before they buy. Or, to fully appreciate the teas on offer, head to the adjacent Kaboku tearoom. Using a kyusu teapot, you prepare your own, and the staff are very helpful if you’re new to the way of tea. For a little extra you can book a tea class to learn how to prepare and fully enjoy Japanese green tea – perfect for entertaining family back home, or for sharing with fellow guests in the communal areas of Enso Ango.