Kyoto – Sannenzaka Steps and Ninenzaka Steps

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These two paved pedestrian only streets are preserved historic streets located between Kiyomizudera and Kodai-ji Temples in Higashiyama. The narrow streets are reached via steep steps and are lined with some of the best restored traditional wooden houses in Kyōto. Nowadays, most are restaurants, souvenir shops, cafe, inns and cosy tea shops. Therefore it can be touristy and crowded. Surprisingly, it looked deserted this afternoon. Perhaps due to the cloudy day! Legend said that, if you fall at Ninen- zaka, you will die within two years. If you fall at Sannen- zaka, you will die within three years? Best not to run in these streets, be mindful!

Our approach to firstly, Sannen-zaka was via the crowded Kiyomizu-zaka. A signage led us to a descending flight of concrete steps. The myriad of shops on the main street continued here as well. An aged cherry tree on an elevated corner leaned towards these steps. The restored wooden houses with clay tiles were charming. This is a shopper’s paradise. A variety of items were sold here – lanterns, umbrellas, ceramics and pottery including tea cups and bowls, bamboo baskets, novelty shops with musical instruments and weaved baskets and pretty fluffy dolls including cats to name a few. Then, there were all the eating shops – local specialities included, from “ramen” and “sushi”, ice cream and “gohei”, “sanbei” to nice cosy cafe. As we walked down the street, vendors called out to give away samples. The food here are mostly local specialities and homemade. I can’t resist the varieties of “mochi” on offer. The sweet smell of green tea, “ocha” and the stronger “macha” wafted through in some areas. At one corner, Yasaka Pagoda, Ho-kanji Temple established in 589, towered above these neat streets and tiled roofs. This is the oldest pagoda in Kyōto. We arrived at Nene-zaka, another flight of steps. These pedestrians only paved streets made walking pleasant. The crowds added colour and sometimes a spectacle. Kimono clad women in dainty footwear added beauty to this unique bygone atmosphere.

untitled-125 untitled-124 untitled-129 untitled-126There are numerous side streets originating from the main street. The sight of these rustic wooden building, some established over a thousand years ago, gave a genuine opportunity to appreciate the life of a past era. Ryokans, inns, upmarket restaurants, shrines and homes of the locals inter- mingled with the gift shops, eateries, and tour groups with flag waving leader, pull- rickshaws with red blankets, melodious call to buy and sample local delicacies and flowing “noren” inviting visitors. This is definitely a great place to people watch – bowing, low tone talking, nimble walking, picture-taking, local etiquettes and mannerism, flowing silk kimono and modern style, etc. The ambiance of old Kyōto is quite visible here, whilst touristy. With cherry, “sakura” and maple, “momiji” trees; sprouting pagodas and quaint houses – this is one of the best walking and atmospheric streets we had experienced. Here, the culmination of the arts, cultures and traditions (new and old) are explicitly and wonderfully exposed. This is a rare brief glimpse into the past. We continued on the unique street and finally reached Kodaji Temple. This flagstone path, Nene-no- michi street, lined with tea houses and restaurants, led to Yasaka Shrine, the heart of old Higashiyama.


untitled-131One of Japan’s iconic images is the beautiful free-flowing kimono. They are not cheap or as simple as it looks. Sometimes in layers with undergarments, mainly silk or cotton, mostly floral with a few colours and at occasions, like those worn by geisha are very colourful. There are many styles, designs and attachments. I don’t know or want to attempt to describe all these. All I know is that they are beautiful, feminine, and atmospheric and just catches the eye on any street or place. Based on Wikipedia, here are some terms for further reading:-

women’s kimono style……………….Furisode; Hmongi; Iromuji; Komon; Edo komon; Mofuku; Irotomesode;

parts of a kimono……………………..Dura ; Fuki; Sode; Obi ; Maemigoro ; Miyatsukuchi; Okumi; Sode; Sodeguchi; Sodetsuke; Susomawashi

Accessories and related garment……Datejime; Eri- sugata; Geta; Hakama; Haori; Haori-himo; Hiyoku; Nagajuban; Kanzashi; kimono surippu; Koshihimo; Obi; Susoyoke; Tabi; Zori


4 thoughts on “Kyoto – Sannenzaka Steps and Ninenzaka Steps”

    1. It is an interesting place especially it is the oldest part of Kyoto. When we were there, it was uncrowded and pleasant to walk. Thanks for your comment.

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