Kyoto. Although still relatively large and modern, it’s OLD WORLD Japan – meaning the buildings, the customs, the food – everything is reminiscent of the past. it’s easy to imagine that you’ve been transported back in time, and frankly, fun to do so! From the BEAUTIFUL temples, cobblestone paths, out-of-this-world bamboo forests, wildlife (deer!) hanging out in shrines, geisha cruising the streets, beautiful waterways, short doorways and unbelievably friendly people…it’s a gem, there’s no question about that.
PROOF: (Kevin is stuck on short door way)Geisha out and about…We showed up to Kyoto without a place to stay for the night when we first arrived because (while we didn’t know when we decided to travel here) November/December are considered the busy season in Japan due to the fall colors, and everything we could find online was booked. While we managed to book the rest of the week, we decided to test our luck and just show up and hope for the best – fully expecting the sleep on a park bench or in a karaoke cafe for the night. As luck would have it, we met this awesome dude Yu, who just minutes after meeting him, invited us to his apartment for the night to spend the night, free of charge. It’s worth noting that the day before, we had been exploring a new area and stopped to take a breather and minutes after sitting down, a group of 4 women picnicking nearby brought us tea and sweets…the day before THAT, on a rainy day, our coffee was bought for us by a couple of wonderful Japanese women nearby. Needless to say, it’s been this kind of generosity and overall kindness that has really made Japan a special place for us to visit. The more places we visit, the more amazing sights we see, it’s never been more clear that it is the PEOPLE and the connections that we make that really make a place memorable or a place special. That could not be more true of Japan.
Today we walked the “Philosopher’s Path” which is named after the 20th century philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who used this walkway as a meditative practice. The walk itself can be completed in about 30 minutes (although it took us hours) as there are multiple temples, etc along the way that are worth seeing…
We also encountered many artists painting and sketching along the way. Given the picturesque nature of the walk, it’s not overly surprising they chose such a beautiful spot. Apparently in the spring, cherry blossoms adorn the pathway – and while the fall colors have been nothing short of amazing, I bet that it would give our walk today a run for its money.
Kami stones along the wayAfter walking for not much time at all, we hit Ginkakukji temple.
To be honest, I was hesitant to go check out this “zen garden” and temple, because truly, 1.5 months in Japan, we have seen our fair share of temples/shrines/gardens and I wasn’t feeling the need to pay for another…BUT (thankfully!) Kevin insisted (which I never will live down), and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. The temple grounds were actually constructed in 1460 (SO CRAZY!) by a man facing his retirement – and the sheer amount of planning and thoughtful design that went into constructing this (now) temple was truly amazing. The pictures don’t do it justice (but, do they ever really?!)
Yesterday we checked out the “Golden Temple” aka Kinkaku-ji. We walked for about 2 hours (literally) to get there, but dammit if it wasn’t worth it too! The fall colors were out of this world, and it was yet another instance of “man, I’m happy we saw that.” I’ll tell you this, the Japanese have a way with integrating the landscape into their artistic design and have a serious knack for maximising tranquility among the magnificent. Nature perfectly placed, golden water reflections…Kinkaku-ji is a perfect example of this.
TWO days ago, we took a train to meet up with a friend we met in Tokyo to visit a city called Nara. We originally heard about Nara from Anthea, who visited Japan a few years back. After informing us of a ridiculous deer infestation of the city, and hearing her stories, we decided to check it out. IT WAS CRAZY! Aggressive, and Pavlov-ed responsive to deer cookies, these little buggers were NUTS! (Full disclosure: While I like to think of myself as fairly tough, I was actually pretty freaked out with their aggressiveness….and while I DID feed them towards the end, I would not say I came ANYWHERE close to feeling comfortable – DEFINITELY not enough to feed them from my mouth like Kevin did :)) Given the fact that it’s hunting season back home, I couldn’t help but laugh knowing we were literally surrounded by HUNDREDS of deer eating OUT OF OUR HANDS when the rest of our families were freezing their butts off for hours waiting for just ONE to approach. Come to Japan guys! Just sayin’!
Kevin the Deer Whisperer.Deer selfie!
Not surprisingly, there was ANOTHER! temple that we checked out, so we walked to Tōdai-ji (see those ominous clouds?!)….It was raining pretty hard on and off, so Kevin dressed for the occasion.
We weren’t the only ones interested in it though…
And the day BEFORE THAT we checked out the BAMBOO FOREST aka Arashiyama. If you’ve ever seen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, you have an idea of this place – only with one difference. Loads of tourists. Even still, it was INCREDIBLE. BREATHTAKING. OTHER-WORLDLY. Bamboo for DAYZ.
GEISHA/MAIKO SPOTTING! Apparently bamboo forests aren’t only for tourists!All the beauty worked up Kev’s appetite for something sweet (which happens by the minute, I’ll tell you), and we happened across a super cute little homemade custard stand. Good luck? Yes. Happy camper? YES.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times – Life is pretty darn good, and we are feeling pretty damn lucky.