From a 75km hike skirting the city, to a walk down the road to buy a beer and everything in between, the Deep Kyoto: Walks eBook is a soul-nourishing read.

Deep Kyoto: Walks not so subtlety nudges you away from Kyoto’s tourists traps, into the backstreets, lanes, parks, temples, shrines, mountains and rivers of Kyoto city. The eBook is suitable for a wide range of readers: to-be tourists of Kyoto; anyone who has been a tourist themselves; those interested in living and working in the city; and anyone just generally interested in Kyoto and Japan.

The book is a collection of chapters written by 16 authors. Each author has spent quality time in Kyoto and has their own unique writing style.

Deep Kyoto Walks: eBook cover on iPad
Deep Kyoto Walks: eBook

Mindful moments

Reinforced throughout, time and time again, the book suggests a slower pace of seeing Kyoto. The detail of Kyoto’s myriad scenes jump off the digital pages and into your mind’s eye. The detail of the observed surroundings reminds me of a mindful meditation walk. It’s quite calming just sitting down and reading a few chapters.

Visiting a city isn’t just about seeing things, it’s about feeling the place and seeing day-to-day life. I suffer from the “seeing things” pandemic on most trips to Kyoto, seeing most of the sites through my DSLR viewfinder.

One of my favourite parts of the book is Kamogawa Musing by John Dougill. Kamagawo (Kamo River) runs north to south on the eastern side of the city, near such sites as Fushimi Inari Taisha, Gion, the Imperial Palace, Shimogamo-jinja, and literally hundreds more. At dawn on a humid summer day I walked from the Shijo Bridge to Shimogamo Shrine along the banks of the river. The author John walks a similar route almost everyday.

In just one stroll I saw many interesting things – couples embracing after all night parties, birds stalking along the banks and stepping stones in the river, homeless shanties – imagine what you’d see in a lifetime of these walks!

Maps and photos

Each chapter has a related map and ends with a photo. The maps aren’t exact route maps, rather diagrams showing points of interest. This again highlights (my presumed) premise of the book… go to Kyoto and get lost. Forget the guidebooks, get Deep Kyoto: Walks and be inspired to explore the city on foot.

but the point of my walk… is not to pick up a guidebook. The low lights are enough.

Chapter: Into the Tumult

Author: Pico Iyer

The book does include practical information for tourists, like restaurants and food to try, or what to bring on a midnight hike up Mt Agao.

Insights and history

Each author has their own interesting insights and tidbits of history to share – how streets got their name, why certain markets started, the story of the monks at a temple – giving you so much more meaning for your next walk around Kyoto.

…and there’s even a bar crawl!

When you think Kyoto, visiting bars doesn’t immediately spring to mind.

Another of my favourite chapters is “Up & Down the Ki'” by Michael Lambe. Here the book’s editor writes about an all night bar crawl, visiting no less than 10 bars in 10 hours. Many tourists will remember Kyoto just as described in this section – in brief snatches of drunken clarity.

Verdict and more information

Deep Kyoto: Walks is a great read that invokes powerful imagery of the city. Recommended for travelers of Kyoto who want to explore the real Kyoto and its ancient history.

Get more info about the Deep Kyoto: Walks eBook and how to purchase (P.S. It’s quite cheap).

Note: I didn’t get paid to write this and don’t receive any commission if you buy the book. I often chat to Michael Lambe of Deep Kyoto on Twitter, and he was kind enough to send me a copy, and I deemed it worthy enough for me to get my lazy typing fingers into action and write this review.