As the second generation of PT Saga Machie, a company known for the manufacturing of fashionable footwear like Andre Valentino, Jessica Lays is a multifaceted young woman who loves to work hard and play harder. “Play harder” to Jess, as she is affectionately called, means to explore the uncharted part of the globe, or simply to return to her favourite place to discover more.
Getting married to the man of her dreams last year, Jessica chose Kyoto for her gorgeous pre-wedding photoshoot destination. Jessica’s love affair with Kyoto started out early when she was 12 years old and it hasn’t ended, knowing as we do that she spent her New Year’s holiday back in Kyoto with husband, Winston Wijaya.
Recently, we caught up with the bubbly 29-year-old entrepreneur and asked her for her Kyoto travel insider tips and, as always, she doesn’t disappoint! Read below to find out Jessica’s favourite places, activities, and restaurants.
What has made you fall in love with Kyoto? Tell us about your first visit to the city.
Kyoto is filled with a rich experience of history and nature. As a 12-year-old, I remember being awed by the iconic Kiyomizu-dera temple, and having hot red bean soup with sticky rice near the temple grounds during autumn are some of the precious memories I hold closely in my heart.
Where are your favourite places in Kyoto?
My husband and I enjoyed walking along the Katsura River and exploring the Arashimaya area, which includes its park and the iconic Bamboo Grove. It was convenient getting there since we stayed at the Suiran Hotel nearby during my pre-wed photo session. The view is picturesque as you can sip a cup of tea at Café Hassui within the hotel grounds. You can also people-watch, simply do nothing, and enjoy nature all at the same time.
Which places would be good to visit for beginners?
Gion is ideal especially during springtime when the cherry blossoms bloom. Gion is known to be Kyoto’s most famous geisha district as well. You can explore their lovely shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses) while admiring ladies dressed up in pretty kimonos walking around this area.
What is your favourite restaurant there?
One of my favourite restaurants is Wajoryomen Sugari: a small ramen joint seating 10 people at most in one sitting. Its ramen is dipped in delicious rich broth and you can select various toppings from the automated machine in a narrow alley that leads to a small garden before being seated. You have to wait for at least half an hour to enter their main restaurant hidden in a backstreet, but it’s so worth it!
Tell us: what are your and your husband’s favourite activities when you visit Kyoto?
We always visit the Nishiki Market, a 400-year-old market spanning five blocks of countless shops and restaurants. We seek out for comfort seafood and beef delicacies. Besides indulging our taste buds, it’s also fun to have our senses piqued with bursts of colours and interesting smells and noises the market has to offer.
Tell our readers why they should visit Kyoto.
To me, Kyoto is a big city with a small-town feel. It gives you the reset button to enjoy the simple things in life, indulging in its splendid beauty of nature and tasty local food. Kyoto will amaze you as you venture through its parks, shrines and museums. It’s exciting to witness the dynamics of how Kyoto retains its traditional architecture and heritage despite blending in with the new.
What are other cities or towns in Japan that are your favourites?
Toyko, the city of the future. [Smiles]
What are your travel essentials?
Handbag to contain my wallet, mobile phone, power bank, eye drops, and lip balm.
In your opinion, where are the best places to travel alone?
Hmmm. I would say Toyko.
What’s your favourite Japanese dish?
The kaiseki, especially when I stay in ryokans.