Traveling Japan: Kyoto’s Ninen Zaka & Sannen Zaka


While researching places to go in Kyoto, I have to admit, I was trying to live my Rurouni Kenshin years and wanted to see “old Kyoto” where ever it may still exist, while temples and gardens are key destinations in such a search, I realized that I would also have to find *streets*.


Thanks to the efforts of Kyoto citizens to preserve the historic architecture and vibe of their ancient city, there are certain areas that have preserved traditional machiyas, two-story live-work homes that have shops on the first floor. One of such places, a twin pair of streets that I had to track down were Ninen Zaka (2 Year Road) and Sannen Zaka (3 Year Road). The belief is that if you trip on the Ninen Zaka, you’ll have 2 years of bad luck, and three years if you trip on the Sannen Zaka. (I’m happy to report I didn’t trip at all.) These two roads run up towards the Kiyomizudera, my temple of non-destiny that I missed in my two visits to Kyoto throughout my life. Because this temple has been there for centuries, these two roads have always been there for quite some time as well, and they have been servicing pilgrims to the temple and travelers to Kyoto for hundreds of years.


We were rushing on our way to a New Year’s Festival, and it was night time and raining, so there was little time to really stroll and enjoy the experience. I almost felt bad dragging everyone along, and it pained me that we were zipping down these streets so quickly that I didn’t have time to wander the alleys, shop for beautiful art and porcelain, and snap a whole memory disk full of pictures on my point n’ shoot. Nevertheless, I got a taste of the place and have placed it firmly in my future list of things to do to come back and spend a day or two or more just strolling, shopping, and snapping pictures.


And taste it I did, in these rice cake dangos that were deliciously steaming hot and fresh.


In the quick snapshots I was able to take and the brisk walk I took through the night rain, I was able to get a glimpse and taste of that “Old Kyoto” I was looking for and imagine myself on my own vagabond adventure to save the common folk from the tyranny of a madman wrapped in bandages bent on destroying the peace and order in the area (cue Kenshin hero ballad).


Although many of the shops were closed, there were still a few open that also showed a bit of the lively wares that are available during the day. I rather detest shopping in malls, but this, this I will break my piggy bank for and love every minute of the urban hike and treasure hunting.





Next up, another beautiful street of Old Kyoto, Shimbashi Dori in Gion.


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