Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kyoto: Old World Japan

Let me start by saying I have just finished my first full day in China and am just beyond thrilled to be back.  There is nothing quite like this country and I love every minute of being here.  More to come on China later, though.

This post is going to focus on my favorite city during my tour of Japan....Kyoto.  Located southwest of Tokyo, this was truly old-world Japan.  It was one of the few places untouched during WWII, so many of the historical buildings and charm of the original city remain,

On the surface, this is yet another large modern city, but with little effort in looking past that, it becomes something out of a book.  The city is just peppered with some of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the world.  I could not imagine a more peaceful place to visit.

I was fortunate enough to spend two days in this city, and, while I left exhausted, The sites I saw are unparalleled.  My first stop of the two days was at Chion-in Temple, which was a spectacular temple off the beaten tourist path.  The monks and I basically had the place to ourselves.



It was a rather large complex of buildings in which the monks live and worship.  It is still very much an active site with monks living there today.  After wandering the campus of stunning buildings, I wandered into a chanting session with several of the monks.  I had the opportunity to sit in on their ceremony and listen as they chanted in perfect rhythm.  It was a surreal experience that was both calming and enlightening.  

Upon leaving my time with the monks, I toured a few more buildings before heading off to my next destination!

  


After eating an amazing lunch of noodles, I headed out on a personal quest: to find one of the few real life Pokemon Centers in the world!!  For those of you who are not Pokemon enthusiasts, Pokemon Centers are where you take your Pokemon to regain health after a battle.  Of course the real life version is basically just a retail store, but still, childish glee was oozing from me as I approached the store.  Just note, I was not the only one.  The store was filled with all people in their twenties reliving their childhood passions, so I fit right in.  After forcing myself to not buy everything in sight, I left with a nice bag of goodies including a Kyoto exclusive Pikachu wearing a kimono, which is to be added to my classroom decor in the fall.

   


As much fun as the Pokemon Center was, I still had another temple to visit before my day was over.  After getting on the wrong train and ending out way in the country, I returned to the city center where I got on the correct train to the temple!  The hassle was worth it, though.  The Fushimi Inari Shrine was spread out across the side of a mountain spanning 4 kilometers.  the entire walk up the mountain was covered in bright orange wooden archways carved with prayers.  To be there and experience a walk through these arches was unreal.  There is nothing else like it in the world and it shows the level of dedication the monks have to their religion.  I set a personal goal to make it all 4km up the mountain......so naturally I only made it halfway before having to turn around and make the climb back down.  Fortunately it was Japan, so there were vending machines all over, even in the sacred shrine, which kept me hydrated as I climbed!  Check out the pictures because a verbal description does nothing for the experience.






My second day in Kyoto involved several more temples, shopping, and lots and lots and lots of rain!  In between the storms though, I managed to sneak in a phenomenal walk through a large bamboo forest.  The walk was so peaceful as the light from the sun shined through the holes at the top of the bamboo canopy.  This time, unfortunately, even the photos cannot do the experience justice, but still have a look...

 




Kyoto was a truly special place.  In my two days there, I barely even scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.  This is the one city I really hope to return to in Japan as I really did not see everything I had hoped to.

Time is getting late here in China, so I will be heading to bed shortly, which, happens to be in an extremely beautiful hotel artistically designed with a theme of wood because the power has been off at the school since we arrived.  No complaints here!

Stay tuned for the next and final post about my week in Japan....Tokyo.  Once more, have a look at a preview:


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