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Tea Leaves

In search of the authentic in Kyoto

In post-pandemic recovery mode, Japan's former capital is more like itself again

The pandemic has emptied out Kyoto streets once packed with tourists, such as this one near the Yasaka Pagoda. (Getty Images)

Recently, I boarded an almost empty shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to spend a few days in Kyoto, Japan's former capital. I was excited because the city's historical, artistic and spiritual locations have always given me reassurance in a changing world.

Kyoto boasts about 20% of Japan's cultural treasures and a vivid gastronomic scene that always delights. Before the COVID-19 pandemic it was plagued by busloads of free-spending tourists consuming the city in Instagrammable moments. The hordes largely kept me away. But now was the time to return, to soak in the city's new, peaceful calm.

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