Kyoto – the traditional, historical and pretty escape from Osaka’s loud neon life. If you want an escape from that, anyway. (Not everyone does! We’ve been here in Osaka for years already.)
Tourists love Kyoto for all the temples, nature walks, kaiseki restaurants, and the chance to spot a geisha casually walking down the street.
What do all those things have in common? Those sights and traditions are super old. The oldest temple in Kyoto – Kennnin-ji – has been around for over 800 years, and the rest aren’t that far behind.
A company called Whole Love Kyoto is out here working hard to make the old things feel new again.
What is Whole Love Kyoto?
Kyoto feels like it hasn’t changed much in centuries. And to many people who visit Japan, that’s the whole point. Something that’s been around for hundreds of years is worth taking a selfie with.
Whole Love Kyoto exists to remind us that, in a world where it’s easy to focus on new and shiny stuff, old things can still be interesting. It’s a collective of local artists, designers, and makers who’ve been passing down their traditions and knowledge over the years.
They have the original ideas and design concepts for all their items, working with local Kyoto arts and crafts specialists to bring them to life. Everything’s not just ‘Made in Japan’, but ‘Made in Kyoto’. And by reviving those items and techniques, they’re preserving bits and pieces of Japanese history.
You can’t run in them – you can’t even walk that fast. They make a clumpy loud noise with every step you take. There’s no grip on the soles. They don’t protect your feet from the sun or rain. If you’re wearing tabi socks, those are gonna get wet too.
The ‘ta’ in ‘geta’ (下駄) is literally the kanji for ‘burden’.
To update geta for style and comfort, Hanao Shoes put the colourful sandal straps on pairs of comfy sneakers.
Choose from all kinds of fabric patterns, tied to plain white, red or black shoes so the sandal straps stand out more. And don’t forget to check the sizing before you order a pair.
A ‘chochin’ is one of those paper lanterns you see everywhere in Japan. They’re usually red (‘akachochin’). They’re hung outside restaurants, shrines and temples, and they’re released into the air during festivals.
And… you can wear one on your head.
To work on this project, Whole Love Kyoto paired up with a lantern maker that’s been around since 1923. The Chochin Cap project took over 10 months to complete. They’ve designed it to look kinda ‘streetwear’, but to hold onto the recognisable style of paper lanterns.
The same way lanterns have that folded ‘concertina’ pleats shape, you can use that to adjust the cap size.
It’s so breathable! What we mean by that is, it’s honestly useless as a way to cover or protect your head. The huge hole in the top keeps your scalp exposed to the weather.
Weirdly, that fact… isn’t stopping people. When we wrote this, the Chochin Cap was sold out online.
Ice Cream Gift spoons
Sitting down to eat a tub of ice cream is the start of some precious time to yourself. It’s just you, the frozen awesomeness, and the tiny wooden ice cream spoon that you got as a freebie.
Know what’s gonna make that ice cream taste even better? A nicer spoon.
Like… one covered in ‘urushi’ lacquer, or silver-plated copper.
Both types are collabs with different craft studios in the Fushimi area of Kyoto: Ishikawa Lacquer Studios, and Decorative Metal Workshop Takeuchi. Go on, guess which one’s which.
They’re designed to be used for special occasions – like if you treat yourself and pick up that more expensive vanilla. And they’re only sold in pairs, so you’d better get used to sharing…
Hand towels with a history
You’ve read about Japan’s magical super high-tech toilets. Have you read how lots of public toilets still don’t have hand dryers or towels? Always catches us out.
A ‘tenugui’ hand towel should be there, in your bag or pocket, wherever you wander. One that reminds you of Kyoto each time you wipe your hands.
There’s a story behind every design too – a tale of Kyoto from days gone by. Every story’s been based on serious, time-consuming research and historical evidence.
When you’re holding a Whole Love Kyoto tenugui, you should also know that it was hand-dyed by the team at fabric colouring workshop Yawata. Their screen-printing techniques take a lot of effort – stretching to dye fabric over 25-metre boards must be tough on the arm muscles.