MAKOTO: Begin your day with a cup of powdered green tea, or matcha, at the Rakusui hotel and restaurant, tel: (81-75) 771 3535. It's best done while viewing the garden. The grounds of the Rakusui were designed by a very famous landscape master of the Meiji period, Jihei Ogawa. I'm fascinated by the contrast between a meticulously kept garden like this which is very much in the typical Ogawa style and the rawness of untouched nature. Incidentally, the pond is in the shape of Lake Biwa, a freshwater lake northeast of Kyoto and historically a source of inspiration to many writers and artists.
After you've enjoyed your tea, make the 10-minute walk to the vast Heian Jingu Shrine, tel: (81-75) 761 0221. This was built in 1895 for the 1,100th anniversary of the establishment of Kyoto, which used to be known as Heiankyo. Just around the corner from the shrine is the Hosomi Museum, tel: (81-75) 752 5555, where you can enjoy exhibitions of traditional art, or stock up on souvenirs from the museum shop, which has a great selection of modern and sophisticated Japanese gifts.
Next, it's time to refuel with a Kyoto-style Chinese lunch at Morikoh, tel: (81-75) 531 8000. It's near the Chion'in Temple in Higashiyama-ku. The food isn't as heavy as Chinese cuisine can sometimes be, and it makes a nice change to have a little Japanese flavor thrown in. My favorites there are the spring rolls and the steamed chicken with sesame sauce. Work off your meal by taking a stroll in Gion Shinmonzen, a street with many antique shops and boutiques, including one of my favorites, Aero Concept, tel: (81-75) 533 7161. This place sells all kinds of goods made from duralumin an aluminum alloy used in aviation. They make it into everything from business-card holders to bags and even guitar cases, sometimes binding it with leather. It's a little pricey but everything is chic and of excellent quality.
Afterward, go to Izawaya, tel: (81-75) 525 0130. It's a 143-year-old gift store with a cool selection of eye-catching items from stationery sets to tie-dyed ecologically friendly bags. I can always find something nice there. My latest favorites are little stick-on clothes, which are used to decorate paper dolls of maiko (or apprentice geisha). They are very cute and make good gifts for people overseas.
Getting a set of name cards at Ikuokaya, tel: (81-75) 561 8087, is also a good idea. This store was established in 1862 and makes hana meishi colorful name cards with traditional Japanese motifs. They've been used by geisha and maiko for decades, and when I became a maiko, I had mine made there, too. Each card is printed by hand, and this is one of a few stores left that make them.
If you're all shopped out, you can take a coffee break at Oku, tel: (81-75) 531 4776. This newly opened café is a trendy East-meets-West sort of place, and their custard pudding is divine. Once revived, go to Kazurasei, tel: (81-75) 561 0672, for beautiful kanzashi, or traditional hair ornaments, and Japanese-style combs. They're very popular among geisha.
Just down the street is Yasaka Shrine, tel: (81-75) 561 6155, which is famous for the spectacular Gion Festival held in July. I go at the beginning of every month. The patron god of businessmen is enshrined there, so I pray for success in my business endeavors. Finally, hop in a cab and head to Muromachi Wakuden, tel: (81-75) 223 3200. This is the final destination in your perfect Kyoto day it's a Japanese restaurant and a great venue for dinner. It offers a calm ambience and exquisite service with a real Kyoto feel. The food is also a delight to look at but more importantly, it just tastes so good.