I feel so lucky that I’ve had the chance to live in Kyoto for an extended period of time. It’s beautiful, surrounded by mountains on three sides and chock-a-block with history. It’s the kind of place that when you tell people where you live you mention the closest temple or shrine. “Oh!” locals say. “It’s beautiful over that way.”
Clancy guides you around all parts of the city in 31 walks. She’s been here since 1970 so she really knows her stuff. History buffs will love the explanations about each attraction’s significance, and even those who loathe history ~raises her hand~ will gain an appreciation while staying interested.
Each walk starts with an overview and public transportation options to the start point. Along the way notable shops and eateries are mentioned, often with price ranges so you know what you’re getting into. Relevant tips about etiquette are scattered throughout and maps, photos, and a detailed index are included.
After reading the introduction I checked out the walk for my favorite part of the city, Arashiyama. It’s a mountainous district with a stunning river, temples, and iconic sights. I’ve shown friends and family around it many times and all my favorite places are mentioned, from Tenryuji Temple and the Togetsukyo bridge to the bamboo forest and Iwatayama Monkey Park. Clancy also recommends places I haven’t heard of – it turns out that until now I’ve missed out on Rakushisha, literally “the cottage of fallen persimmons”. It’s associated with the poets Kyorai and Basho and the gardens have stones with poems carved into them. I can’t wait to go the next time I’m over that way.
This is the books greatest strength – it covers all the “must-sees” while also directing you to underappreciated sites. Japan and Kyoto in particular have been attracting more and more foreign visitors each year and many go to the same places, so getting off the beaten path provides a welcome respite from any crowds and a better look at the “real” Japan.
If you’re looking to spend any decent amount of time in Kyoto you can’t go wrong with Clancy as a guide.
Thanks to Stone Bridge Press and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.