The trip from Osaka to Kyoto takes around 30 minutes. It’s a fast and convenient train ride. The journey provided this tourist a snippet of the Japanese metropolitan and country landscape. The city is not only ancient but emblematically spiritual for the Japanese.
Forget trying to see all the temples. There’s more than 2000 of them. I did not craft a list of shrines to visit; I wanted to experience the town in my own phase and not just hop from one place to another. But I did went to Chionin temple, an enormous compound, to say my prayers for a relative that recently passed. I did the same in Tō-ji temple. The area of Kyoto (like Chionin) was used as location for the Tom Cruise movie “Last Samurai.” I think those Japanese period movies (like my brothers favorite “Satoichi”) spend less in recreating locations because there’s nothing to recreate; most of the place looks exactly the way they were as if time stood still!
I did enjoy the area in Gion because that’s where you see genuine Geishas. They’re still there; These iconic Japanese symbols are walking human art. They are trained in various facets of art and spends most of their lives learning and entertaining. Much of the popular novel “Memoir of a Geisha,” was set in this district. I saw an older man being guided by one; foreign tourists were snapping pictures left and right which I find to be rude.
I get to taste traditional street food in this area too. The fried sweet potatoes (simply sprinkled with sugar), rice cakes, traditional pastries and deep fried chicken. I was aware that some of the stores has been in operation for centuries—just like the temples that dotted the town. For a place with a 1000 year recorded history I was not surprised. I suspect that the restaurant where we ate soba near Kiyomizu-dera Temple (where they still perform a dragon dance according to old Shinto rites) has been around for ages but I did not trouble asking the staff because no one speaks English.
Geologically Kyoto is encircled by mountains that shelters it from typhoons that reaches the shores of Japan. Storms that sometimes pass us first in Manila. In Shitennoji Temple, an impressive Buddhist temple built in 593 AD, you get a view of the picturesque rolling hills complete with a giant torii gate. One could only imagine what Kyoto looked like back in the day. Thanks to locals who dress up in traditional way travelers like myself could get a snippet of the old feudal capital.
We probably took more hundreds photos. You’re surrounded by beautiful tradition, picturesque places, temples and people. It’s hard not to—even a simple carved stone water well has been around for ages.
Kyoto’s that kind of a place—what a wonderful place—another visit is in order!