Monday, December 30, 2013

A heavenly and philosophical walk in east Kyoto

Up early having slept long and heavily in our hotel. Gradually got ourselves sorted out and found an italian style cafe in Kyoto Station's vast station building's restaurant zone. Managed to score ourselves two heated panini rolls full of vegetables, and two good cups of damn fine coffee. Thus braced off on our adventure. Caught a cab driven by a gruff old man who took us to Kiyomizo Dera which I particularly wanted Lorraine to see. The whole area crowded and lively with people drawn out by the imminence of the new year, and the stunningly beautiful day.We happily joined the ant lines threading through this majestic place. Everyone snapping away with their cameras or smartphones at the temple complex and the views of Kyoto and the mountains beyond. People queuing to buy their fortunes or to adore Buddhas, or gulp down a draught of health promoting spring water.

From there Lorraine and I took a long walk north, guided by a map from the tourist office. I had done tho same walk on my last visit. The map and reality on the ground were only tenuously connected. But occasionally being a little lost (grateful to the compass feature on iPhone) we walked through a succession of amazing sites as we headed north some of which I had not seen on my first visit. Royzen Kannon was one, a vast shrine for the unknown soldier dominated by a huge looming Buddha, which if you walked around the back you could step into its body. In the gloomy interior were further small Buddhas assigned to particular Chinese horoscope signs, so there was a Buddha for Snakes, Tigers and so on with a list of the relevant birth years. We walked through temple complexes at Chion-in hearing buddhist chanting over a speaker from somewhere. Another discovery was the fabulous Shoren-in Temple which had a beautiful interior full of sliding doors, and a gorgeous elegant garden. All quite chilly though walking about in socked feet in rooms open to the gardens where ice still frosted shadowy corners, and remains of ice floated on still water.

Then we thawed out over a delicious and warming soba noodle soup and cups of hot green tea, in a friendly little restaurant, which produced an English menu. One older man on another table burst out with "Harry Potter!" to one of the waitresses when - I think - she asked him if his food was good. I think they like Harry Potter here.

Then on to find the start of the Philosopher's Walk after some splendidly intuitive map reading from Lorraine. Very popular today, and a very pleasant walk it is too, by the side of a little canal wooded on one side going up to the mountains, and with very upmarket and elegant houses. At last we reached Ginkakuji Temple, also known as The Silver Temple, this also a world heritage site. We reached there at four o'clock and the the sun was low in the sky. Just as stunning as I had remembered. We tried to step aside from the ant line from time to time. Interesting watching a young man come up to a view of one of the masterpieces of human culture take a snap with his phone in half a second and then look away, as if the real experience was captured in the smartphone.

A long walk and grateful for the cab which took us back to Kyoto station, which has the virtue of being incredibly easy for cabs to find and us foreigners to describe. Back to the hotel for a cup of coffee and a watch of the Japanese Record Industry's yearly awards show, which was still on after we had returned from having a fairly decent meal of pork loin, rice, shrimp and other sophisticated Japanese fixin's. Thought we had ordered a beer but we got iced cold tea. This rectified we enjoyed the meal, and our success in ordering too, before sloping home to see an ageing boy band, previous winners called Exile, win the main prize again. Enjoyed seeing the poppets from AKB 48 again. This group seems to be about 48 girls all singing in uninspiring unison and looking cute.

For Lorraine and I an amazing day, and walking home from our meal we felt a little more confident about being strangers in a strange land able to speak only a handful of local words, including a Toby word of the day a few days ago, ganbatte which means persist or keep going, which we did rather well.

And so to bed.

Below scenes from the day...



























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