I do not live in Kyoto, although perhaps I have in some distant past life. And… I am sure I will in the not too distant future. It is a city with which I feel an amazing affinity and am drawn to, like no where else in the World. Thank you, Mohamad, for allowing me to indulge in sharing my experience of Kyoto for the series, Around the World.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years. It is a city of deep history, a tangible and totally accessible history. A history that weaves it’s way, so seamlessly into everyday life, it is sometimes barely noticeable. Women and men in kimono, geta, hakama, walking the historical sites, taking selfies for posterity. It is perfect marriage of tradition and technology. Everyday life is bathed in tradition and etiquette.
I love walking the streets of Gion, which remains reasonably unchanged over hundreds of years. Licenses, displayed on wooden plaques, on ancient ochaya, where geiko have been serving tea and sake for hundreds of years. Spectacular kabuki theaters and monks collecting alms, very peacefully, on street corners.
There are so many amazing temples and shrines in Kyoto, I am not really sure which ones to include. Kiyomizu-dera is a wonderful wooden structure, built into the side of a hill. It is quite amazing at any time of the year, whether surrounded by cherry blossom, beautiful Autumn colours, or snow. Kinkaku-Ji, the Golden Pavillion, sparkles in the sunlight, as it is entirely covered with gold leaf. Arashiyama, the bamboo grove, is serene and dramatic. Ginkaku-Ji, the Silver Pavillion, which incidentally is not silver, is the perfect example of Japanese wabi sabi style. The concept and aesthetic that there is much beauty in the transience of life, the unfinished, the imperfect, the impermanent. The list of incredibly beautiful places to visit is never ending. There are some 2,000 temples and shrines in Kyoto, and I can guarantee, you will run out of steam before you run out of extraordinary places to visit.
This is not to say that Kyoto does not have it’s share of modern wonder. Like all cities in Japan, Kyoto has a contemporary, up-beat, and often avant-garde side, as well. Funky cafes, serving amazing coffee, stylish record shops, selling vinyl, and of course, the ubiquitous manga and anime shops. There is also the International Manga Museum, housed in an old school building, and offering some 300,000 manga, which you can read anywhere on-site, for a very small entrance fee. There are also historical exhibitions and anime and manga computer programs for kids to try out.
I am returning to Kyoto in September and my list of things I want to see gets increasingly longer, but usually is discarded soon after I arrive, as I get caught up in the Kyoto life, friends, food, shopping, fun. I am forever grateful that I found a place on this very large Earth that makes my heart break, whenever I am away from it, and I see it from afar… that destroys me every time I have to say goodbye, and entices me back, with beauty and charm. Kyoto most definitely has my heart.
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