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Kyoto Days: Walking through historical Ninenzaka

To make sure you’re all caught up with my Japan blog entries, start here:

After our late morning breakfast, we headed for Ninenzaka – one of the protected streets in Kyoto for its pure historical value. This was another one of those places I wanted to make sure we visited. I’ve seen many stunning pictures from this area. It took us one bus ride from the Inari station to make it to Ninenzaka. Once we got off the station, it took about 5-10 minutes of a casual stroll to get to the historical area.

There were no trendy buildings. Most of the homes or businesses appeared to have kept their historical significance. We did spend quite a bit of time inside Starbucks. I know, of all places, why Starbucks? The building was renovated to blend with the temple and shrine community. Most of us ordered traditional maccha drinks, and we found a perfect spot upstairs for all of us to sip our coffees and teas and snack off of  the morning’s pastries.

Starbucks in Kyoto blended with the community
Inside Starbucks as the 19 of us sat down on tatami floors

During our Starbucks break, a few of us decided to go to Okamoto, one of the kimono rental stores, and have pictures taken with this traditional Japanese attire. I didn’t want to do it at first, but I figured, why not? We’re in Japan and how often do we get to do this. Six of us dressed up. This was a process.- we were all separated- the guys and ladies had to go to a separate dressing room- we picked our own outfits- we had someone assigned to each of us to dress us from head to toe.

The dressing up process itself took over 20 minutes. For the ladies, they also had an option to get their hair done. For me and Nancy, this was a cost of around $90 total. I thought kimonos were just these big robes. But for me, there were different layers of clothing (3-4 plus straps around our waist). It was a feat to dress up.

Six of us rented kimonos (3 couples). Nancy and I, my in-laws, Kuya Nelson and Ate Tonie, and Rovee and Armily. To be perfectly honest, we all had a great time dressing up. It’s not that often that we get to do this, and dressing up in Kyoto seemed like the perfect opportunity.

You could imagine the hundreds of pictures that we took. We walked outside the streets in our kimonos. It didn’t feel awkward at all. Many others did it. We also went to Maccha House for some excellent green tea treats (uji maccha tiramisu and ice cream). We got to mingle with the rest of the family.

Maccha House goodness
Just our small family enjoying every bit of Kyoto

We were given the option to wear the kimonos until 6:30pm, but we had other plans for that day. So after nearly 3 hours of playing dress up, it was time to head back to Okamoto to return our outfit. That was a lot of fun.

Will I do it again? You bet. And if I didn’t say it yet, I highly recommend Okamoto. The staff was fantastic, the selection was plenty, and the facility itself was top notch. Other establishments might promote that they charge less. Just be careful. With Okamoto, mostly everything was inclusive. The ladies paid an extra 500 yen to get their hair done. Not bad at all.

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