Kyoto is a blur of memories. Is that because I was traveling with someone, as opposed to being on my own when I have only my own observations to remember?
Or was it because Kyoto was not wat I expected?
It’s not a small town. The population is around 1.4 million and the city is spread over a wide area. The neighborhood we stayed in seemed like the business center, with one concrete high rise after another.
Maybe writing about it, with the help of Google maps, will help me put in order what we did.
Day two: we took a half-hour train ride to the Arashiyama bamboo forest. A young couple with a cute baby sat opposite us and we all smiled at each other and at the baby. When we exited the train Lynn and I played the game where we guessed where they were from.
“The Philippines?” I posited.
“I thought they looked American,” Lynn replied.
Go figure, why we form the impressions about people that we do. Probably both of us were wrong.
The forest was majestic. It was also oppressively hot and humid; even the younger tourists were dragging their feet. “I have bamboo in my garden in Scotland,” Lynn reminded me. “It grows in very wet places, so that must be contributing to the humidity.”
At the top of a very long incline was the entrance to Okochi Sanso Garden. This is the former home of the actor Denjirō Ōkōchi, who spent the last decades of his life creating these gardens, with lovely views of the Kyoto area.
We followed the paths, slowly. They were all uphill and but sometimes it’s okay for me to not hike at my usual brisk pace, where I don’t actually see anything, tiny or large scale.
There was a neglected-looking building displaying Okochi photos and mementos. I know it’s a huge, expensive job to maintain the gardens but I wonder if they couldn’t put more effort toward honoring the man who started it all. Besides, the photos were so charming.
From here, we somehow found our way to the Tenreiju temple in the vicinity of the forest, where we squeaked into the tea house for lunch just before it closed.
But first, disaster!
As I was removing my shoes, balancing myself by clinging to the wall so I wouldn’t fall over, a voice cried out, “No shoes! Shoes off!”
Lynn was being scolded by the hostess for the unspeakable crime of setting foot onto a mat with her shoes on.
Lynn, looking like a dog that’d been whacked with a rolled up newspaper, beat a hasty retreat to the shoe removal area, from whence, shoeless, we contritely tried again. We were rewarded with air con and a beautiful vegetarian set lunch.
“This is my first time eating Japanese style,” I said as I shifted from sitting cross-legged to kneeling, then keeled sideways, then tried sitting with my legs straight out in front of me. “It’s okay for a half hour, but I wouldn’t be able to stand up again if I stayed much longer.”
“Maybe that’s how they encourage customers to keep moving through,” Lynn conjectured.
“This purplish brown thing—is it a giant pencil eraser?”
“The Japanese must have really strong teeth,” Lynn said.
“This is fantastic,” she said, pointing to one of the many bowls.
“Yes, it’s actually the best meal I’ve had so far. The eggplant is to die for. I love eggplant. I have to find out what this sauce is … This is why we travel, right? To experience new things,” I murmured with a mouth full of eggplant.
“May as well stay home if you don’t want to try anything new,” Lynn concurred.
On the way out I stopped in the WC.
I don’t understand how anyone thinks that sharing sweaty plastic bathroom slippers with thousands of strangers is more sanitary than just wearing one’s own shoes. But it’s not my country; see above.
We walked down to the Katsura River, which was very picturesque.
We encountered a Japanese guy promoting Chinese-Japanese relations in honor of a historic visit there by Zhou Enlai, the first Chinese Premier.
He wasn’t much interested in us. I think he was betting that China is the future.