Best Things to Do


Restaurants surrounding Nanzenji are a great place to stop for lunch. The specialty is a Kyoto delicacy called yudofu, a boiling pot of tofu blocks, more interesting than it sounds thanks to accompanying sauces and condiments. Many of these restaurants, like Okutan, have lovely garden settings.

When the lights go down, head for dinner at Shabu-zen, which serves shabu-shabu, a heartwarming, cook-it-yourself concoction of paper-thin beef which cooks nearly instantly along with vegetables in a pot of boiling water set into your table, before you dip them in different sauces. Walk off your dinner with a stroll in the Gion or Pontocho districts, the mood-lit locations of Arthur Golden's novel, where if you squint you can imagine that you've stepped back 200 years in time, and it's the best spot to possibly see a geisha or maiko (geisha in training) pass by.

Try traditional Kyoto style kaiseki cuisine (small plates in elaborate crockery, designed to please the eye as well as the palate). The restaurant Shinsen-en Heihachi overlooks an ancient garden, and it's across from the historic Nijo Castle, often dramatically lit at night.