Today I was as tourist in every way possible. I went around most of the major sites around Kyoto together with my guidebook, a large camera hanging around my neck and a video camera for those moments you just want to catch in action. I visited the beautiful Golden Pavillion of Kinkaku-ji whose shine radiated across the peaceful lake amidst the mountains and the towering Japanese Black Pines. It’s beauty reflected in the water in front of you and the whole place radiated a sense of peace and calm. If only there were less “tourists” like me around it’d be so much better, but who wouldn’t want to visit a site so marvelously beautiful?
I went to Nijo Castle, built to demonstrate Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s power not far from the Imperial Palace , gazed at its beautiful painted panels, and treaded on the nightingale floors which made bird-like squeaking sounds. The large planks of wood really sound like birds chirping. What methods do they use to build it? The design is absolutely mind bogging. How could one have thought of such a thing in the 16th century? That was the shogun’s alarm system for intruders back then. So natural, so simple, but incredibly complicated at the same time.
I slurped on japanese udon in a tiny little udon place not far from finding peace at Daitoku-ji temple. I like this temple especially the Daisen-in subtemple which is my first encounter with an actual zen temple. They offer a Muromachi-period dry garden which is basically one of those raked zen gardens with stones and mounds of gravel. Each stone and each tree is carefully placed with accompanying lessons on life. I feel like I should sit there for awhile to ponder about life, eternity, and the temporariness of our little lives.
My last stop was perfect. I ended the day at Kiyomizu-dera temple watching the sunset from high up in the mountains. This temple was built without nails and juts out from the cliffside on vast pillars of wood. It offers spectacular views of Kyoto. Pure water from the mountains flow down to the temple and is considered sacred for its “purifying” power. Lines of people patiently await their turn. Everyone wants a good and happy life. It’s amazing beyond words.
I got a good workout walking today..the temple compounds are vast and breathtaking. I even meet one of the Indians who arrived on the same flight. Small world this planet earth. I am falling in love with Japan already. There is much more than just visiting sites in Japan..it’s the little things that matter. They always do.
Oyasumi Nasai my dear friends, until tomorrow.