Here’s how to enjoy Kyoto for...
Visit one of the best museums in the city for free. The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan) features creations of traditional Kyoto artisans, unsurpassed in their technique and taste. It’s located in Okazaki Park, near the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and Heian Shrine. Grab a reasonably priced bento lunchbox or Japanese confection snack at one of the many shops and restaurants and enjoy it along the nearby canal. www.miyakomesse.jp/fureaika/index_eng.php
Experience the ancient capital from a mode of transport from yesteryear. Hire a replica jinrikusha (rickshaw; www.ebisuya.com) and tour the most quaint and picturesque neighborhoods of Kyoto. You’ll be pulled by a fit, friendly and very knowledgeable guide. Always popular with couples. Among other scenic places in Kyoto, you can find them lined up propositioning passing tourists in front of Kodaiji Temple in Higashiya.
After feasting on Gion with your eyes, do it with your taste buds. Have the guide drop you at the trendy Kyoto-style patisserie, Jouvencelle (Higashiyama-ku, Yasakatoriimae Minami-iru, Kiyoi-cho 482, Kyoban Building 2F, Tel: 81 75 551 1511), near Kodaiji Temple. Dip an assortment of fresh fruit, mochi (rice cakes) and cake into the hot Gion Maccha (green tea) Chocolate Fondue while you enjoy the view out of a second floor window. When you’re done eating, the waiter will bring you some hot milk to turn what’s left of the dipping chocolate into a warm Maccha Chocolate au Lait.
Having dinner with a geiko (known as geisha in Tokyo) or maiko (apprentice geiko), is the quintessential, premium Kyoto experience, once reserved for the elite. With the proper introduction (your concierge at an international or bigger hotel should be able to help you), you can visit their tea houses for a drink while watching them perform songs and dances, or invite them to dinner at the restaurant of your choice.
If you aren't staying at an international hotel or can't get an introduction to a tea house, go to a restaurant that has connections to the world of geikos or maikos. Splurge on dinner with a maiko at Takumi Okumura (www.restaurant-okumura.com/takumi/english) in Gion – the latest in a series of family-owned Kyoto restaurants that feature a fusion of Kyoto kaiseki and French cuisine. Within the beautifully restored traditional Kyoto tea house, you’ll be dining off beautiful tableware that includes Western antiques as well as new pieces created by Japanese artisans.