I try to start my day at Yasui Konpiragu shrine in Higashiyama Yasui whenever possible. According to local legend, there’s nothing this shrine can’t cure. Broken heart? Recovery from illness? Quitting alcohol, smoking or gambling? It’s worth a go. Head to the main worship hall, take one of the ornaments (¥100) and write your wishes on a piece of paper. Post your paper in an opening in the huge stone that dominates the site, wand then – like magic – your bad luck has gone. Hang your ornament on the stone andlet the good times roll.
70 Shimobenten-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. 075 561 5127. Open all day (charms sold 9am-5.30pm). yasui-konpiragu.or.jp
I then go to Izuju, a Kyoto-style sushi shop founded close to 100 years ago. Izuju is home to saba-zushi (mackerel sushi), ayu-zushi (sweetfish sushi) and other Kyoto signatures all sold at market price. If the weather is good I opt for take away and eat my sushi along the banks of the Kamo river. It’s a beautiful spot beloved by locals – its waters are clear and I love spotting herons and wagtails on the banks. Stepping stones allow you to crisscross from cherry tree-lined bank to bank.
292-1 Gion-cho Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. 075 561 0019. Open 10.30am-7pm. Closed on Wednesdays. izujugion.wix.com/izuju
Then I’ll head to one of Kyoto’s bathhouses. Many homes built before WWII still have no bathrooms, so there are close to 130 public baths in Kyoto. My favourite is Bentenyu. Pay your ¥430 fee at the attendant’s booth and step into the locker room – you’ll see throngs of people undressing, but the relaxing bath that awaits is worth any minor embarrassment.
52 Minamikyogoku-cho, Kiyamachi Gojo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto. 075 361 0553. Open 3pm-1am. Closed on Sundays.
After soaking in the tub, I like to enjoy a fresh draught beer at Efish, a hip café with seating looking out onto the Kamo river. I love to look out at the river, drink in hand – what could be better? The food here is fantastic, especially the desserts.
798-1 Nishibashizume-cho, Kiyamachi Gojo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto. 075 361 3069. Open 10am-10pm daily. shinproducts.com/efish/index.php
My final tip is that you should get lost. Put this guide away and stroll through the city randomly, taking whichever path takes your fancy. You’ll see stray cats in alleyways, discover chic shops, and you might just find a new favourite restaurant. Let inspiration be your compass as you build your own roadmap through Kyoto.
Mutsumi Tsuzaki is a graduate of the masters music program at Kyoto City University of the Arts. An active marimba soloist, her composition “Xylophone Days: Yoichi Hiraoka and a Flawless Life of Music” (Kodansha) won the Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities and the Hidekazu Yoshida Prize. Other works include “Tenshi Tsukinuke Icchome” (Tankosha) and “Sodekagami” (PHP Interface).