A door on a side street.

Kyoto is a grid-like maze, bewildering at first but easy to navigate once one gets his bearings. This means, in other words, sticking to the network of larger roads, those major arteries that, by bisecting each other, channel traffic and people from one place to another in town: Gojo dori, Karasuma dori, Horikawa dori and so on and so forth.
Sticking to the mains, even though it ensures a safe option to go around, means that one would miss one of the most delicate, quirky and heartwarming spectacles of life in Japan: house fronts in the side streets.
In my first visit in Japan I stayed for a while at a hostel in Asakusa, a district of Tokyo that managed to convey the distinct impression of being in one of those sunset scenes in Holly & Benji or Mila & Shiro: neat shops, tiny ladies pushing their trollies, bottles of water scrupulously lined around lampposts, boys and girls returning home from school dressed in their sailor-like uniforms. Here in Kyoto I found the same views, the same insights from a world where cities can have 35 million inhabitants and yet no one feels necessary to chain a flower pot lest it gets nicked.

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