Kyoto is well known for it magnificent temples and shrines, colorful souvenir shops, exquisite restaurants, crafts and traditions, mysterious maiko and geiko and the loveliest cherry blossoms and autumn leaves but there is one more attraction which will definitely make you turn your heads and try to take pictures.
The rickshaws (in Japanese “jinriksha”) are lovely carts for a person or two pulled by young and very fit men, wearing a distinctive uniform. Their energy and power is surprising. They will meet you with a little pamphlet, offer you a ride and if you decide to try, they will offer you kindly a little wooden step, help you get on, make sure if you have sat comfortably, cover your legs with a blanket if it’s cold and your little journey on 2 wheels will start!
It won’t be simply a ride! Your rickshaw driver will take you to a few famous spots, stop to take pictures of you and will guide you and tell you stories that a few know. I don’t know if they all speak English but there are some for sure.
There are 3 areas where you can enjoy the rickshaw drive or simply go to photograph the rickshaws.
The most popular is Arashiyama. It is famous for its beautiful valley, wide river, the famous Togetsu bridge, variety of shops and traditional restaurants and a number of nice temples, truck train and Monkeys park. The rickshaws are waiting on both sides of Togetsukyo – “moon crossing” bridge. A ride costs 2000y for 1 person and 3000y for 2.
Another area for rickshaw rides is Higashiyama, near Gion – the Geiko and Maiko ditrict in the heart of Kyoto city. You can find them in Maruyama park (go up Yasaka shrine from Shijo street). The ride will take you along the “old Kyoto” streets of Higashiyama, giving you the chance to get pictures with a wonderful traditional Japanese background. You can even add more spice if you dress in a kimono in one of the rental kimono shops in the area.
And the third area to get a wheeled trip – Heyan shrine area. Just between the huge red torii gate and the entrance gate to the outer grounds of the shrine you’ll see a few rickshaws parked and their “masters” waiting for customers. Those rickshaws are popular for the “just married” as Heyan shrine is one of the renowned shrines for traditional weddings. Almost any time you go to visit the shrine you will see at least one couple in wedding kimonos getting married and being taken pictures, followed by a long ceremony of shrine priests, miko girls (shrine maidens) and happy relatives.
I personally have never got a ride but I do enjoy taking pictures of these guys and their beautiful vehicles!