Nikki Maller

Nikki, Travel Angel of Japan Experience


A native New Yorker, Nikki first fell in love with Kyoto while studying abroad at a local university. She returned as quickly as possible, teaching English for several years until moving on to focus on Kyoto and its beautiful history.

Now, she spends her days still exploring and discovering the city, as well as learning about Nihon-ga, a blend of traditional and modern Japanese art.

Although she has lived in Kyoto for years, every day she finds a new way to blend engaging in Japanese culture with sharing her own background.

His/Her background

Nikki graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts, U.S.A., where she studied Japanese. After a year abroad at Doshisha University, she worked for several years as an English writing and advanced conversation instructor at a girls' high school in Kyoto.

Still enamoured with the city of Kyoto, she then became a Kyoto Travel Angel to help introduce the city to as many people as possible.

His/Her advice for you

Must-see :

Daigo-ji. Daigoji, in southeast Kyoto near Uji city, is a popular spot with Japanese visitors, but relatively unknown to travelers from overseas. Daigoji is a fairly large temple, with a five-story pagoda, a temple with spectacular gardens and interiors, and amazing cherry blossoms and autumn foliage. It's accessible from Daigo Station on the Kyoto Tozai subway line-- from outside the station there's a shuttle bus to take you there.

To bring back with you :

Raku pottery can sometimes be unappealing at first glance, with imperfect shapes and odd glazes, but the longer you look, the more you appreciate how charming and unique each and every piece is. A bowl or a sake set is a great way to keep a one-of-a-kind token from Japan that you can use for a long time.

Words to Know :

"Daijobu." This word means alright, and can be used in many different situations, from "I'm alright" to "It's alright." When phrased as a question, Daijobu? means both "Are you ok?" and "Is this ok?"

Dishes to Try :

Kyo-yasai, or Kyoto vegetables. In the west, the "local food" movement is just starting to take off, but the Japanese have had pride in their local specialties and products for centuries! Kyoto has a lot of great vegetables, such as "Kujo negi," a type of leek, "Kamo nasu," a type of eggplant, and many others like pumpkins and radishes. Kyo-yasai can be prepared a million different ways, like o-banzai (delicate little side dishes) or in more modern ways blending new techniques and traditional flavors.

Traps to avoid :

Tap-and-go transportation cards like Icoca and Suica can be really convenient, but keep in mind that they don't work on Kyoto buses!


"Big thanks to Nikki for the pointers in getting around in the city."

Iris & Pascal

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