The words may be a little confused, but I think the message still gets across.
With the weather being less than favourable on our final morning in Takayama, Dad and I decided that we’d catch an early train to Kyoto. The 2 hour shinkansen ride eased us through green hills and rural pastureland, snaking quietly into more built up neighbourhoods and manufacturing areas as the city of Kyoto welcomed us into her embrace. Knowing that we were far too early to check into our hotel, we opted to investigate the tourist information centre for some further ideas (even though we really didn’t need them!) about how to fill the seven days we’d be spending in the remarkable city. Grabbing a map and a couple of brochures, Dad and I started off in the direction of our accommodation.
Our first day in Kyoto, like almost every previous day and those that still remained on our trip, was spent walking. Kyoto has excellent public transport, but as I’ve mentioned before travelling with my Dad involves searching for the unique in nooks and crannies; there’s a lot you miss when you’re unable to control where and when you stop to look around – especially so if you’re travelling on the subway. Our feet carried us first towards downtown Kyoto, towards the Nishiki Market and the tourist shopping delights of Downtown Kyoto. The sights, smells and sounds of fresh produce markets, while being similar to most establishments of the same purpose were still quite something to experience.
Moving through the markets we noticed the transition from produce to product – farmers and fishermen shouting about their well-priced delicacies became craftsmen and designers, all excitedly eager to discuss their handcrafted souvenirs or inspired clothing, footwear and other fashions. The shopping district of Kyoto is easily somewhere to lose hours of your day even if you don’t buy anything.
I wonder what could be in this area…
I’d read about the Philosopher’s Path and hoped to walk the route during hanami (flower viewing) while in Kyoto. Making our way through the streets, we headed towards Higashiyama for what I had hoped would be a period of peaceful reflection as we walked in the footsteps of one of 20th century Japan’s most influential philosophers. The trek to our starting point took much longer than we had anticipated and by the time we arrived it was reaching into the afternoon. Given that the walk itself is at least half an hour if you don’t stop to ponder, I knew that we would not have time to enjoy the afternoon sun during the walk. The decision was made to head back to town and instead stop in at the Heian Shrine, a Beppyou Jinja (top-ranked shrine) that is a must see for anyone visiting Kyoto.
With some time remaining before the setting of the sun, we entered the shrine and joined the masses of visitors all taking in the great sights of the famous movie location (I was a bit excited to be standing in the same area that Scarlett Johansson had been in while filming Lost in Translation, I’ll be honest). Some pilgrims washed their hands respectfully at the shrine’s water fountain, others tied their bad fortune to the Omikuji trees so that it wouldn’t follow them once they left the grounds.
Dad and I continued to discover all that Heian had to offer. In the afternoon light we walked through the gardens of the shrine, again finding ourselves speechless at the precarious beauty of the cherry blossoms as the flowers filled the trees with colour and blanketed the ground as though it had been snowing. Soon enough though, the evening began to rise and it was time for us to head back towards our hotel.
After a delicious dinner and a sake nightcap we retired for the night, weary but invigorated and excited to see what more Kyoto had to offer. Our first day had been a wonder; as I drifted off to sleep I had to wonder whether the week would continue to surprise us…