KYOTO - TEMPLES - SHRINES - GEISHA'S - TEA
There are 17 World Heritage sites in Kyoto. It would take at least 10 days to take in most of them so we make our choices and plan to stay at least 3 days. As we step out of our guest house that first day we are greeted by the chants of several monks begging alms on the streets of this residential area.
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| We are taken back
centuries by just the atmosphere the city exudes. It seems almost everywhere you look
you see the upturned corners of Buddhist temple roofs or Shinto shrines, Shinto
being the traditional religion of Japan.
There is a huge castle, palaces, hundreds of gardens and occasionally a lady in a kimono or a geisha tripping along in the Gion section on her way to work.
There is also another side of Kyoto. It is a bustling city of over a million people with a great bus system, huge modern shopping areas, and markets, one tucked away under a stain glass roof that seem to go on for miles.
There are thousands of different types of restaurants, galleries, museums, shops and in 1997 the completion of the very ultra modern steel and glass structure of the Kyoto train and bus station.
It is a futuristic cathedral with skywalks, soaring 11 stories above the main concourse in a confusion of reflection and reality.
We learn the bus system right off and buy bus passes to allow us to get in and around town for $5 each. It is a bargain as the distances for our own self guided tour takes us to every corner of the city and beyond.
We flow from noisy flea markets
|to quiet solitude on hillside temple gardens to Buddhists chants
inside huge temples, getting lost and not really caring until evening
when we need to find our room situated one block off the Kami river.
Our choices were for our own personal needs including the 12-14th century Sanjusangen-do National Treasure with 1001 statues of the Buddhist deity flanked on either side by the Thunder and Wind Gods. Just in case we need to appease these Gods once back on s/v Ariel.
The Ryoan-ji belonging to the Ranzai school of Zen founded in 1450. Here is the famous dry garden of 15 rocks in a sea of sand. You can only see 14 rocks from any area at one time proving, as the head Buddha teaches, "you can not know everything".
And of course an old onsen, the Funaoka, best in Kyoto.
Here we were able to get in before it opened to find beautiful tiled walls, wood cravings (ranma) in the change room, koi ponds and herbal and Cyprus wood tubs.
|We always seemed
to end up in the Gion section where we were able to catch a glimpse of a few
geisha as they moved from the little alley ways into a taxi or one of the very
exclusive places for geisha entertainment.
The 17th century wooden structures
on narrow alleys with lit lanterns and little zen water features were great to
stroll though in the evening.
One evening I took a class in the tea ceremony
called 'chanoyn' a refined way of manners and customs developed among
aristocratic and samurai classes. Normally this ceremony is done with a host and
perhaps up to 10 guests and last up to 4 hours. My shortened version was with
two hosts and 8 other student guests.
It was a fascinating experience!
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It is sprinkling rain tonight as we head for our cozy tatami mat room and prepare to move on to the ancient capitol of Nara tomorrow. We are totally relaxed and not over indulged by Kyoto, something that is easy to do if trying to 'see' it all. Instead we let ourselves be carried away by whatever destiny was here for us and had a wonderful relaxing time.
Now it is time to get back on the bicycles. See you in Nara.