What to Wear When Exploring the Former Imperial City of Japan

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Jet-setting across the seven seas, or simply swapping neighborhood spots, What To Wear When is your weekly column for shopping inspiration.

Tokyo may have a leg up on the nightlife, the neon lights, the technology, the super fast-paced lifestyle—basically everything that comes with the hustle and bustle of a major, high-density metropolitan city—but it’s Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, that can be counted on for delivering unparalleled beauty. Nestled in the Kansai region of Japan, Kyoto boasts traditional geisha houses (called okiya), stunning public parks, and an astounding number of 1,600-plus temples, including (and most famously) Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

No wonder David Bowie was so enamored by Kyoto (and Japanese culture in general—the makeup of his persona Ziggy Stardust was influenced by kabuki). As his favorite destination, the late musician often frequented the city at weeks at a time, even once hinting that he might make the move permanently. In the ’70s, photographer Masayoshi Sukita (who not only shot Bowie for more than 40 years, but also iconic imagery like the “Heroes” album cover) joined him on his travels, documenting their trip to Kyoto in striking black-and-white photos that now live in a tome called Speed of Life. And when Bowie and Iman wed in 1992, they traveled to Kyoto on the last leg of their honeymoon, staying at the exquisite Japanese inn Tawaraya Ryokan during their visit.

“My honeymoon was my best vacation ever!” Iman once recalled. “We got married in Florence, Italy and then went to Bali for two and a half weeks, then to Kyoto, Japan for one week. Just a divinely sexy trip.”

From easy-to-walk-in sock sneakers to eclectic prints to kimono-inspired dresses, here’s what to wear to explore everything Kyoto has to offer.

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