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Nita

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Mar302014

Tour/Activity

The Art of the Geisha: Private Dinner in Kyoto

Kyoto, Japan

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

Our translator/guide Reiko picked us up promptly at our hotel and had a cab waiting to take us to Gion, where we spent a few minutes marveling at the illuminated cherry blossoms and the lovely people strolling in the area. Then we were whisked away to the restaurant for our evening with the geisha. It was a beautiful evening. The service by the restaurant staff was excellent. Reiko proved to be an excellent translator for our communication with our maiko, answering all our questions with a smile. It was a magical evening to experience the world of geisha up close, to see her hair and make-up, her beautiful kimono and her gentle demeanor. Our maiko entertained us with music, dance, conversation and a fun game at the end of the evening. We felt very special receiving all the attention. The men in our group were especially appreciative of her presence but the ladies enjoyed themselves a lot too. We were a bit disappointed with the quality of the dinner. Having eaten in other expensive restaurants. we felt that it could have been a bit more inventive, but in the end the evening was more about the culture of the geisha rather than gastronomy. I cannot speak highly enough of our wonderful translator and guide Reiko, whose politesse and proficiency in English made our evening so enjoyable!

My Photos

  • Evening with a Geisha
  • Dinner with a Maiko

Mar292014

Tour/Activity

Kyoto Cooking Class, Sake Tasting and Nishiki Food Market Walking Tour

Kyoto, Japan

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

From beginning to end this was a wonderful afternoon! We met our guide Yoshie at the designated spot and after waiting about 15 minutes for 2 other people who never showed up, we started our tour of the Nishiki covered market! Everywhere we turned, we saw food which we could not identify, but Yoshie answered all our questions in excellent English. She encouraged us to taste various items, some sweets some seaweed, some cakes. She explained the differences in types of rice, tofu, bean curd, tea and more. We munched our way through the colorful market for about an hour. Then, since our feet were tired, we took taxis to the Sake Brewery Museum for a brief tour and explanation of the sake brewery process, but the bulk of the time was a tastings presentation. I never realized there could be so many different nuances in the taste of sake! We loved it so much we bought 2 bottles! Afterwards, Yoshie accompanied us to the mahiya, a traditional wooden town house characterized by black wooden slats in front. There, Yoshie left us in the good hands of Akiko, our teaching chef. The cooking lesson was basic but we had a lot of fun learning the secrets to making miso soup and sushi rice. We were taught how to make tamagoyaki, an omelet in a square pan called a makiyakinabe. Then we used pieces of the tamagoyaki along with pickled vegetable, crab sticks and cucumber to make our very own maki. After cooking , our meal was served to us in a private dining room covered with tatami mats. Akiko poured the tea for us and we feasted on the fruits of our labor! EXCELLENT TOUR ON ALL ACCOUNTS!

My Photos

  • Cooking class
  • Cooking Class
  • Kyoto Nishiki Market

Mar292014

Tour/Activity

Kyoto Small-Group Bike Tour

Kyoto, Japan

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

This was a great way to get acquainted with Kyoto. Our guide met us promptly at the meeting point and walked us to the bike rental shop. We took off along the river to see the beautiful cherry blossoms just starting to open up. Our visits to 2 temples were brief but long enough for some good photo opportunities. Riding along the Path of Philosophy was difficult because of the many pedestrians so we walked our bikes as we admired the tranquility and beauty around us. Our guide was very nice but I have two complaints. 1) At one point, myself and one other biker ended up at the end of our line of about 8 bikers. The others rode quickly ahead of us. I fell off my bike trying to avoid two small boys who suddenly appeared in my path. Luckily, my fellow biker, whom I did not know prior to this tour, stuck with me to help me because neither the guide nor the rest of the group were anywhere in sight. Once I had righted myself and started pedaling along, we reached a cross street and looking both ways could see no sign of any of our group! We decided to stay where we were hoping that our guide would notice we were gone. After about a full 10 minutes, my husband came back to find us, following a few minutes afterwards by the guide. I think the guide should have kept better track of the group so he'd have known 2 people were missing for a good 15 minutes! 2) The tour was listed as being 3 hours but in fact it ended up being 4 1/4 hours. This was an issue for me and another person in my group who have knee problems because a 3 hour ride would have been fine but the extra hour caused more discomfort than anticipated. When we asked our guide why it had taken so much longer, he said that he didn't want to rush the group...
All in all, the tour itself was lovely and seeing Kyoto by bike takes less toll on the feet than walking! If the guide had been more aware of the whereabouts of his charges and if the schedule had been a bit more strict it would have gotten a 5.

My Photos

  • Nishiki Market Kyoto
  • Kyoto Bike Tour
  • Heian Jingo Shrine

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