Kyoto: Mixing Old with Flu

Ok guys I’m back and in one piece after spending three extremely long days away from Tokyo visiting some of Japan’s other famous cities. On that note, I will be doing two separate pieces, one on each city on our trip, so that I do not bombard you all with walls and walls of text at one time. So without further ado, let’s begin.

At the bright and early time of about 6:30AM our group boarded the Shinkansen Super Express (aka the bullet train) bound for Kyoto. The train itself was more like a first class airplane cabin except smoother and with much less danger of falling out of the sky. Giant reclining seats and surplus leg room made the three hour journey across the island a very enjoyable and relaxing experience.

Shinkansen trains are super aerodynamic to allow for smoother, faster rides.

Shinkansen trains are super aerodynamic to allow for smoother, faster rides.

Getting out into Kyoto Station was like walking off a train into the Mall of American only way cooler. Stores and shopping malls 11 stories high lined every inch of the massive building which housed everything from subway lines to a movie theater and hotel! The largest part of the station was in a mix of open air and exposed wire frame roofing that formed a net on the top of the station not unlike the bird’s nest stadium at the last Olympics. But anyway, it was time to make our way to the Annex and off to the temples.

Our first stop of the day was the Kiyomizu temple which is one of the largest and oldest ones in the city. As I washed my hands in the fountain to clean myself off before entering the temple (I have completely given in to the whole Buddhist rituals at these temples for the sake of making the experience authentic as well as broadening my religious horizons) Steve and I made a note of something that just exemplifies the current state of Japan’s health crisis. Standing at the fountain next to me was a young woman dressed in a beautiful red traditional kimono adorned with large white flowery patterns across its silk surface. To finish off this outfit, she had a sterile, ugly blue surgical mask covering what I can only imagine was a gorgeous, youthful face, now obscured by a mask of panicked pandemic paranoia. I found the whole image to be plain sad when I looked at the extent to which this country was trying in vain to protect itself from something that much of the world has now dismissed as nothing. Moving on,  my story with this temple revolves around the end of our walk through the temple grounds when we came upon a huge line of school children and tourist all waiting in front of a very large shrine with three streams of water running from the roof down to a large pool at its base. The fountain was used to purify oneself by drinking the water you would collect from one of the waterfalls using a silver cup attached to a long pole. Being that I think Buddhism is a sweet religion and wanted to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity, I eagerly jumped into line while the others all watched on cameras in hand. Making sure to tuck my silver cross necklace into my shirt (because I thought it was respectful to look less like I was doing it just for a glamor shot, and I also wanted to really step out of the realm of Christianity for just those few minutes) as I took up the silvery cup, I filled it and dumped it out twice as I saw those before me do before retracting the long shaft and taking a drink. In the short sip I felt relief, refreshed, cleansed, and slightly freaked out over the quality of the water (like I would) all at once–needless to say I found it to be a very captivating experience.

Mmmm Tastes like Spirituality :-P

Mmmm Tastes like Spirituality 😛

From Kiyomizu, we headed by bus up near Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, located in the northeast part of the city. Getting to the temple itself included another giant stretch of walking along what is known as the Philosopher’s Walk, a kilometer or so stretch of square rock tiles wide enough for a single person to step on. The path ran along a small creek filled with carp, and we all took the time to think of the larger questions in life in order to get the full experience of the path’s namesake. The Silver Pavilion was under construction…holy disappointment batman. The night ended with an extremely hot bath in the Annex’s community bath (yes, community bath) followed by a walk about in traditional Japanese robes before falling on the straw mat floor and swiftly passing out.

The next morning we awoke to the sweet aroma of fish and rice being cooked below us for a traditional Japanese breakfast. We ate well, packed our things, and walked back to the station to leave the bags with Steve as we students went exploring alone around the western and central areas of Kyoto. In the interest of space I’m going to summarize our second day with two quick stories. First: Do not jump the drainage moats outside the Kyoto Imperial Palace…I was unaware when mocking the wimpiness of a two foot wide moat that separated the gravel covered palace grounds and the enormous palace walls that this wall was monitored via a laser security sensor much like you would see people dodging in Hollywood bank heist movies. With this fact unbeknown to me, I jumped the moat and landed softly on the wall side only to instantly hear what can only be described as a prison break alarm begin to blare in the otherwise quiet palace gardens. Knowing I would surely be shot and killed on sight the way the piercing howl of the siren assaulted my ears, I sprang from the wall and took off in a full-on sprint straight away from the palace. I was so worried of being pursued that I swear I could have run all the way back to Kyoto Station on adrenaline alone. As it turns out, no one came racing after me, and I shortly returned to the group laughing at the whole incident.

The second event of the day is much shorter, and I plan on summing it up via pictures because my descriptive capabilities will simply not do the beauty of these two places justice. Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, located in the extreme northwestern part of Kyoto is home to, you guessed it, a temple covered completely in gold leaf (thin gold material used to cover walls and structures). Here’s the image from the first “photo-opp” with my head ducking under the railing to get the flowers in the foreground 🙂

Isn't that special

Isn't that special

The second image is from the inner palace gardens at the Imperial Palace. We managed to score a tour of the area inside the walls I so perilously attempted to come in contact with earlier in the day. Our adventure in Kyoto ended with this tour, and so appropriately I will leave my story from Kyoto with this image as well. Next stop was Hiroshima, home of the World Peace Memorial Park and many emotional moments for our whole group. Stay tuned for more about that later on.

Had to create a giant traffic stop in the tour group to get this shot from the ground looking under the bridge. It is now my desktop background for obvious reasons.

Had to create a giant traffic stop in the tour group to get this shot from the ground looking under the bridge. It is now my desktop background for obvious reasons.


One Response to “Kyoto: Mixing Old with Flu”

  1. Tokyo Diaries: the Zen of Hybrid Technology? « Theory Teacher’s Blog Says:

    […] are having a little dinner party at our dorm. For more about our trip in Kyoto, check out this blog that one of my students is doing. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Tokyo Diaries: […]

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