Get cracking, there are 2,000 temples and shrines to see...

Go slow at the inn

08.00: Traditional Japanese inns, known as ryokan, make for an unmissable experience. They offer a chance to slow down and appreciate the natural environment around you. One of Kyoto's finest is the Hiiragiya Ryokan at Nakahakusancho, Fuyacho Anekoji-agaru, Nakakyo-ku, (00 81 75 221 1136; hiiragiya.co.jp). Here, you can wake up to the sound of water trickling into a stone basin just outside your window. All 33 rooms are decorated in classical Japanese style and most have garden views. Rooms from £130 per person, per night, including two meals.

Head east, into the past

09.00: With around 2,000 temples and shrines to choose from, you will have to accept that some of the Kyoto's top sights must wait until your next visit. The best place to wander is the east part of the city, where you will find the machiya, or distinctive traditional dwellings. Be sure to explore two streets: Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka.

To the park touched by gold

11.00: Make for Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, in the north-west of the city, a three-storey replica of a 15th-century structure covered in gold leaf. It is set amid extensive grounds where there is a lake with pine-covered islets.

Veg out on a seasonal lunch

13.00: Lunch at Tenryuji Shigetsu, Saga Tenryuji Susukinobanbacho 68 (00 81 75 882 9725; japan-guide.com/e/e3913.html). The restaurant overlooks the exquisite gardens of Tenryo-ji Temple. The best choice is the vegetarian shojin-ryori lunch, based around yuba, tofu and seasonal vegetables. Prices are from £15 to £30 per person, and you need to book.Relax after lunch with a hot spring soak at Arashiyama. At Onsen station you can soak your toes in a footbath.

Feast on a work of art

17.00: One of the charms of dining in Kyoto is eating traditional food in an old building made of natural materials. A good choice is Imobo Hirano-ya Honten, Maruyama-koen-uchi (00 81 75 561 1603), adjacent to Maruyama park, which is more than 300 years old. It offers the full-on kaiseki deal (a series of small dishes presented as miniature works of art) for around £30 per person.

Relax, and eat your horse

21.00: Evening entertainment for night owls should begin at Natural Kitchen Koji (00 81 75 353 5788), 620 Suiginya-cho, near the nightlife area of Pontocho. If you are still hungry, they will rustle up some raw horsemeat, though the appeal is more the drinks, which include a cocktail of honey and black vinegar soda.

Stroll down geisha alley

22.00: Pontocho, a pedestrianized alley parallel to the Kamo River's western bank, stretches from Shijo Dori north to Sanjo Dori. The area once teemed with geisha houses and members-only establishments (historically, geishas in Kyoto - unlike those in Tokyo or Osaka - were male entertainers dressed as women). Today the area makes for a good stroll and some bar-hopping.

Have a nightcap by the river

MIDNIGHT: The River Oriental on Kiyamachi-dori Matsubara-agaru (Japanese only website: plandosee.co.jp/) is a Taisho-period Japanese inn open until 2am for drinks overlooking the Kamo river. It is an ideal place to round off a day pondering Kyoto's environmental charms. After a few glasses of the vodka-like shochu you may even be optimistic enough to think George W Bush will sign up to Kyoto. On second thoughts, coming to such a conclusion would take more alcohol than most people could handle.

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