I’ve finally met Kyoto, and she’s as lovely as I’d imagined.
After three days of dancing at Rainbow Disco Club in Shizuoka, I hopped onto a crowded, hour-late shinkansen and headed to Kyoto. Nothing could get me down (not even an hour late shinkansen) after the immaculate musical experience that was RDC. And if I’m to be perfectly honest my kokoro (heart and mind) remained on the dance floor for the majority of my time in Kyoto.
So trying to stay present and mindful, I arrived in Kyoto at 6pm on Monday evening ready for a shower and still armed with a sleeping bag, backpack, tent and dancing daydreams. Camera in hand; naturally. A quick cab ride to the hotel and all I could think was “Onaka suita!” – I’d barely eaten a proper meal over the previous three days because getting food meant leaving the dance-floor and I wasn’t ready to sacrifice a beat for a bowl. Turns out a built up appetite worked in my favour as I went on to spend the next two days eating my way through Kyoto. YES! This veggie-non-foodie ate her way through a Japanese city. Okay, not really. Just a through a chunk of the vegetarian section which offered up a generous serving in comparison to the usual niku-niku-sakana-niku-sakana (meat/fish) options I’ve become accustomed to. Kudos to Kyoto’s rich Buddhist influence for treating me to the most exquisite tofu dishes and vegetarian lunch and sets. Kudos, too, to my travel-partner-foodie who knew her way around google maps like the back of her fork and subsequently had me scanning the cyber surrounds for cutlery in no time. Forks on Google Maps: Travel Essentials 101 apparently. And new to one (read:me) who spends more time googling gig guides and pretty places to shoot than on looking up lunch sets. A simultaneous lesson and reminder that we all have different motives and styles of travel; some for art, some for sound, some for sights or streets or sweets. All with a travel tip to be learned from another, or a different perspective to be shared.
But, back to Kyoto. Aside from being vegetarian heaven; Kyoto exudes class and culture with a subtle creative atmosphere that is both refined and considered. If Kyoto were a colour palette of fabrics it’d be earthy linens in dark browns and creams with subtle bronze and emerald details. And a little red of course, because this is Japan after all. By the end of our final day I was convinced that Kyoto’s municipality had employed their own Creative Director for the city. The attention to detail and cohesion of colour, style and simple architectural nuances across the city seemed too perfectly aligned to have occurred serendipitously. I’m fully aware that attention to detail is almost a national philosophy but Kyoto is absolutely a physical manifestation of this notion – best viewed up close (walk don’t bus). Every detail of the city seems to have been curated by an Art Director with a vision of natural-neutral minimalism. The city, in its entirety, seemed to fall into a specific spectrum of colour and concept. From streets dedicated to calligraphy stores to restaurant decor, to locals’ fashion, to boutique style stores, right down to the ubiquitous elements like bus stops, signs and vending machines. I’m a sucker for concepts and colour so I can absolutely appreciate that someone has taken the time to transform a traditional area’s eyesore-of-a-white-vending-machine into a giant camouflaged matte-bronze-juice-box to be noticed only by those seeking a drink. Attention. to. detail. Colour palettes and style aside, I couldn’t help but notice how conceptual many of the spaces were too. Some of the most tasteful branding and store design I’ve had the opportunity to witness to date. Tea shops with walls covered in bubbles, cafes concepted from cup to cake, logos placed in tastefully unassuming positions on floors or glass doors, exquisite signage and typography – all thematic, minimal and unobtrusive. Considered. Best believe my art-directing heart internalised every piece of beautiful branding and crafty creative I came across while there.
I’ll definitely be back; with more time, an appetite, a sketch book and another pack of polaroids.
So until our next meeting; stay calm and creative Kyoto.