Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…
There was indeed something mysterious happening in Kyoto during my stay that was surely quite a blessing. The general scent of rain was quite prevalent each morning and throughout the day, and I daily surmised that it would soon rain just by catching sight of the charcoal-colored cumulus clouds congregated along the mountainous horizon surrounding the city. Each morning I passed the riverwalk and looked towards the mountains with concern that my trip would soon be inconvenienced by torrentious rain. However, as the day progressed, giant clouds would break apart from the mass and gently float over the city creating wondrous aesthetic in the sky like an oil painting. Clouds quickly became less of a burden and more of something I earnestly desired.
I was out the door and once again exploring the city during my first morning in Kyoto, which infact was on a Sunday. It was 6:30am and not another soul was around. What was quite a bustling city the previous evening, now laid silent with only my footsteps echoing amongst the chilled breezes and distant sounds of bells and birds. It was actually a little spooky walking around the city without any moving cars or people in sight, where was everyone? It reminded me of “Vanilla Sky,” and even though it was mildly spooky, it was also transcendently serene. By the time I reached the Yasaka-jinja Shrine, I was essentially back-to-reality when I saw other patrons taking advantage of the rather harmonious morning.
Amid walking around the temple grounds I noticed a solitary gentleman ringing a bell and flipping coins into the shrine. Uncertain about this practice upon it’s inception, I soon learned that at most Shinto shrines, such as this one, it’s a common practice to ring the shrine bell prior to prayer, something that I also noticed when visiting Jainist temples in India, and a Buddhist temple in South Korea. I’m not exactly sure of it’s religious significance, but it was indeed interesting to subtly hear bells and chants amid the temple grounds.
After walking through the shrine temple arch, one of many I’d soon walk through, I headed to Choin-in Temple where I was quickly reminded of another Tom Cruise movie called “The Last Samurai.”
If you recall the scene in “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise and his associates first visit the Japanese Emperor and have to walk up a seemingly long flight of stairs just passed a temple building, well, this is it. In the movie, the stairwell looks horrendously hard to climb, but I didn’t find it all that long or difficult.
Even though it was around 7:15am when I entered the temple grounds, not another person was present and I was free to loiter and snap photos in any place I wished for as long as I pleased. There was a point during my time here that I sat down in the middle of a wood-constructed covered walkway for about 15 minutes enjoying the scenery and attempting to capture the cool essence of the place. Not before long I also soon realized that another scene from “The Last Samurai” was filmed in this particular walkway.
Then after randomly passing by this thought-provking message a little ways outside the temple grounds…
… I roamed through a forested area and then arbitrarily came across a huge hillside cemetary. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. At first I felt a little strange being a foreigner in a Japanese cemetary with no one else around, but I supremely felt I could not pass up such a unique place as this; thus, I quickly decided to roam up the hill and take a memorable photo.
I ended up staying here much longer than expected relishing the view and pondering the daunting thought of death and the fact that life is short amidst the joyous feeling of someday entering heaven and being with God. “Carpe Diem,” I fervently said.
After spending the entire morning walking around a good portion of Kyoto, I headed back to the hostel where I randomly met up with Line, a very nice Danish girl I was able to get to know a little the night before when all us travelers at the hostel went out to the riverwalk. She was headed out to meet up with a few others from the hostel to grab a bite near the riverwalk and kindly asked if I wanted to tag along; I said sure.
While waiting for the guys to arrive, we got to talking about our lives and yearnings for what we want in life. Quite coincidentally, I quickly discovered that she had many of the same yearnings and desires as me, such as the desire to create, travel, make a great difference, and live in different parts of the world, in addition to also currently struggling with the idea of sacrificing liberty essential to travel freely and create art in order to firmly settle down with someone. Some might say that it’s a little strange to be fairly open with one another only on a second meeting, but it seemed to be very comfortable. When the guys didn’t show up, we headed out for stroll in search of Italian food.
Not before long we found a cool joint along one of the many streams running through the city and enjoyed a scrumptious lunch amid pleasurable conversation. After lunch we went our separate ways as she had to leave in a few hours; it’s too bad, I would have very much enjoyed talking with her more. There’s always Facebook, I suppose.
After saying my farewell, I headed to the Heian Shinto Shrine where I was able to take a nice stroll through the temple grounds. I couldn’t say I really felt or saw anything super special here, but the cloud-filled sky was surely great in all its marvel.
From here I took the “Philosopher’s Path,” which essentially was a path along a stream amid surburban neighborhoods and small temples that allowed for a direct route to my next destination: Ginkakuji Temple.
The Ginkakuji Temple was pretty cool, but I’d recommend hitting this up early in the morning because there was quite a crowd in the afternoon and I had a tough time getting the shots I wanted. However, it was quite hot at this time and one of things I greatly recall was visiting a small restaurant just outside the temple where they served ice-cold freshly brewed japanese ginger ale. This stuff was darn good and I happily drank 3 bottles in one brief sitting.
After excessively satisfying my thirst, I set out to the Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, which was across town, however, I randomly came across a place that innately prompted “STOP!”
Uli Uli, a japanese-hawaiian burger joint somewhat near Ginkakuji Temple, was an incredible find and where I had the best burger in many years. To my fellow Texans, this burger’s flavor topped JAX; now, just imagine that.
In addition to having great-tasting burgers accompanied with Hawaiian beer, the overall restaurant aesthetic and super friendly owner made it even better. It literally felt like I was in Hawaii and essentially had to check my brain when I entered back into the streets of Kyoto.
I must also mention that I returned the following day and ordered the very same thing; it was better than the first! This place is a must if you plan on visiting Kyoto, you will not be let down.
After stopping for coffee at a unique café that caught my eye…
… I walked a fairly long distance to Shimogamo-jinja Shrine.
It was 15 minutes before the Shimogamo Shrine was going to be closing its doors to visitors and I was only visitor still present when I began witnessing a display of pure concentration that I will never forget. Two girls dressed in orange and white, and each carrying a japanese fan, began simultaneously carrying out some form of prayer performance ritual. I surreptitiously meandered close to where they were performing and snapped a few photos while remaining in awe at their concentration and balance amid a multitude of different poses all of which were conducted with perfect fluidity.
After leaving the Shimogamo Shrine, it was a fairly long journey back to the hostel.
I had indeed walked very far and I decided at that very moment that although walking all that way had been fun and energizing, it was time to rent a bike since my subsequent desired destinations were a bit farther than a comfortable, doable walk. Therefore, the first thing I did the next morning was rent a bicycle and immediately begin a bike trek toward my first destination of the day: Kinkajuji Temple.
This was definitely a “WOW!” moment. Stay tuned for Part 3, the final chapter.