Building An Imaginary Dream Home in Kyoto

If there’s one thing I can tell you about Kyoto, it’s that it has some seriously hot summers. I accessorized most of my outfits with streaks of back sweat and humidity-inspired ponytails, perfecting my haggard tourist look. Every time I saw a person in jeans, I was bewildered and felt stifled on their behalf.

Every time I saw Geisha, I was stunned. It was like I’d been transplanted to another world (or country…wait…).

Their numbers are dwindling, but there are still women who work as Geisha, which means dashing from one building to another, dressed to the nines and wearing socks with sandals (eurgh, in that heat) so they could put on their makeup and get ready for work.

But these women weren’t alone.

Men with enormous telephoto lenses crowded every doorway, waiting for a Geisha to emerge so they could get all up in her face. The women took it in stride; presumably this happens every day. We strolled down the street, right in front of several Geisha. I only took one picture because I felt too guilty.

Geisha in Kyoto, Japan
I couldn’t tell if these dudes were professionals or just overzealous tourists.

If these women were also suffering from sweat dripping down their spine and collecting under their bras, they didn’t show it. Guess that’s one of the reasons I’m not a Geisha.

But we soldiered on, intending to see the temples that Kyoto is so famous for. Plus, I wasn’t wearing socks with my sandals, so that made things considerably easier.

Kyoto, I soon found, is a great source of inspiration for people who are designing their dream house. Take, for example, a zen garden. Remember those tiny boxes filled with sand and rocks that sit on your desk? You get a little rake so you can scrape pleasing patterns and reduce your stress levels.

Well, why stop there? Why not make a GIANT zen garden?

Zen garden at the silver pavilion, Kyoto, Japan
Bet his stress levels are practically nil.

The life-sized zen gardens were in the grounds of the Silver Pavilion, one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions. The pavilion wasn’t bad either, so I might have one of those in my future home too.

Silver Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan
The Silver Pavilion – disappointingly, NOT coated in silver.

Or perhaps a golden pavilion?

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan
The Golden Pavilion – to my satisfaction, at least partially gold-plated.

Nah, I’ve always been more partial to silver.

I’m really sold on the idea of an entry gate, though I probably wouldn’t choose orange. It worked well for Japan, but it’s just not me, you know?

Orange entry gate, Kyoto, Japan
Could I see that one in pistachio and cream, maybe?
Lantern gate, Kyoto, Japan
Oh, lanterns – nice touch. Might try that myself.

Beyond the gates is where it really starts to get interesting. The first temple we visited was Kiyomizu Temple, which also came with a pagoda. I’d say that leads to a considerable increase in the property value.

Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Definitely having a pagoda. That’s for sure.

Next to the main temple was a curious attraction – the Buddha’s womb.

Just go with it.

For ¥100, you can enter the Buddha’s womb, and you better believe I forked over ¥100. Barefoot and holding onto a wall railing of giant prayer beads, I followed Jared down the stairs into a pitch-black hallway. We wound through the darkness, hugging tight to the wall and never losing our grip on the beads. The heart of the womb was a large rotating stone, illuminated by a small spotlight.

I spun the stone and made a wish. Looking back, I don’t even know if that’s what you’re meant to do, but it seemed right at the time. And I’ll just go ahead and tell you – I wished for happiness. I always wish for happiness, because what else is there?

Buddha's womb, Kyoto, Japan
The entrance to the lair of the Buddha’s womb.

So anyway, I might have one of those for my house too. Adds novelty value.

And since it’s all about first impressions, any good house should have some sculptures, right? (Dream big.) They don’t even have to have any obvious meaning.

Graveyard in Kyoto, Japan
Probably going to pass on the graveyard, but it is visually striking and somehow less morbid than what I’m used to.
Buddha sculptures in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
I was thinking this for the entrance to the Buddha’s womb, if I decide to install one of those.
Buddha graveyard in Kyoto, Japan
These look like mini-Buddhas wearing aprons to me, but I think they’re somehow related to death. Unfortunate.

Most of Kyoto’s alleys are beautiful, with clean wooden shopfronts and dangling lanterns. It’s a really lovely place to have an aimless wander.

Shop fronts in Kyoto, Japan
Now that’s nice. Calming, even.

We decided to go to a place called A-Bar, which was not located in one of these charming alleys. It was in a dingy alley, across from a magazine stand that was chock-full of complimentary, let’s say – adult magazines. But inside was a different story.

A-Bar picked up on the wooden theme by making their bar look like the inside of a log cabin. Having recently re-read “Little House on the Prairie,” I was really into this theme. Our waiter also opened our beer bottles with wooden chopsticks, which won him major brownie points from me.

A-Bar, Kyoto, Japan
Totally stealing this for my in-house bar.

And it was filled with inspirational quotes.

Give Quiche a chance, A-Bar, Kyoto, Japan
You know, I think I will.

But in all of Kyoto, I was most eagerly anticipating one thing. Not the temples, not the food, not the chopstick-wielding waiter.

I was waiting for the bamboo grove of Arashiyama.

Bamboo grove, Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Where are the fairies? Don’t even try to tell me there aren’t fairies.

The bamboo grove is on the far west side of the city, and it is totally worth it. I forgot about the heat and my hunger and was swept away by the bamboo. In fact, I’m not even interested in the Buddha’s womb anymore. I’ll just have a bamboo grove instead.

No need to get greedy.

In the end, there were only two things in Kyoto that I probably wouldn’t welcome in my home.

One of them was the unexpected introduction of chocolate bread into our breakfast ham sandwiches:

Chocolate bread in Japan
Rookie mistake: just because it’s brown doesn’t mean it’s wheat. I realized right as I snapped this picture that it says “chocolate” in English on the bag. We still ate it.

The other was this door:

Dangling door in Kyoto, Japan
Is this the way to the bathroom – AAAGGHH!

On second thought, that would confuse the heck out of people and provide me with an endless source of entertainment.

Thank you, Kyoto, for providing me with endless ideas for our mythical future home. I’m going to put these things on the list right under spiral staircases, secret passageways, and nightingale floors.

Like I said. Dream big. Life might just surprise you.

Happy in Kyoto

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  1. I totally need an invite to your in-house bar. And I want a bamboo grove installed in my studio apartment immediately. And the rough of the building needs to be changed to gold.

    I’ve got to say though at the end of this, I feel rather crushed. Mainly because I’ve realised I can never be a geisha. Sweat issues in summer…serious sweat issues.

    1. You are officially invited in advance. Expect a proper invitation delivered via unicorn when the house is ready to receive visitors. And I know. The geisha made me feel so inferior. And sweaty. I decided they may be inhuman.

  2. I laughed all the way throughout reading this post!

    Did you feel reborn after you squeezed out of Buddha’s womb? (Funny… a Buddha having a womb seems to defy the convention of a pot-bellied man)

    Bamboo grove definitely looks to live up to it’s name… looks like a decent place to shake away some excess sweat too!

    1. Thanks for your comment! The Buddha womb was one of the more unusual things we did in Japan. Have to confess, I felt no change before and after! And the bamboo grove was the highlight for sure.

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