Stepping Back in Time in Kyoto

The mountains of Kyoto’s eastern Higashiyama ward are home to many famous Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines. They’re also home to Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka, a pair of preserved historical streets where visitors can step back in time three hundred years to the time when geiko (geisha) and samurai walked these narrow roads and watched the seasons change at the many teahouses and restaurants that line the hilly streets.

Sannen-Zaka, Kyoto (1)

In addition to restaurants and teahouses, the streets have numerous roadside vendors and small shops selling a wide variety of snacks, including some that may seem unusual to Western visitors–like pickles on a stick:

Pickles on Sticks, Sannen-Zaka

But whether you’re adventurous or prefer more familiar snacks, the wide variety of options definitely include something for every taste.

Visitors who step off the beaten path can also find lovely teahouses and gardens:

sannen-zaka park (1)

Buildings along the streets have been carefully preserved, allowing visitors to experience a walk through historical Japan:


The window displays are often modern, but with a traditional flair:

Autumn Window Display, Sannen-Zaka

And while some shops and restaurants have glass display windows, many retain a more traditional appearance:

Nakamura Restaurant, Sannen-zaka

It’s possible to walk through the streets in 45 minutes, if you hurry, but you miss a lot by hurrying through, so I’d recommend a longer visit. I spent a little over an hour there–and could have spent far more, but I also wanted to see a few of the temples in the area, and didn’t have time for a longer visit. Next time, though, I hope to spend a whole afternoon in ninen-zaka and sannen-zaka.