• Shelley Dark

8. a philosophical walk

This is the system for seating guests at breakfast at the hotel in Takayama. I think we were blue on the far side, with a window overlooking the town. I wonder if the colours signify anything!

Headed straight for the hoba miso this morning.

Well, after some fruit with clear pear jelly cubes and a quite unsweet crème caramel (without the caramel sauce). All followed by two croissants. I'm multi-cultural. Or confused.

I enjoyed this pale pink acerola juice. Have you heard of it? I hadn't. It's a red berry which looks very much like a cherry - only two of the actual berries provide your daily vitamin C needs.

You remember the term kawaii or cute-worship? We've been noticing the popularity of little square pug-nosed cars over the more sleek space-age shape we tend to favour.

Don't you love the way the driver of this front-end loader parked so neatly in a car space?

I think I must be turning Japanese. When I was sitting on the train at Takayama ready to depart today, tourists were boarding quite noisily. Already I much rather the Japanese way of moving quietly, talking quietly, standing aside for others. Deference is infinitely preferable. And the cleanliness of the streets in Takayama is quite amazing.

So many more blossom trees were out as we descended the mountain - in the towns, along the river, dotted through the forests on the steep slopes. This train journey will be absolutely spectacular in a day or two.

We had to change trains again at Nagoya with an eleven minute window. We arrived on our platform as the shinkansen for Kyoto was pulling in, and we boarded with exactly one minute to spare. A little close for comfort. We ate sushi on arrival at Kyoto train station and were at our hotel by 3pm.

We have the makings of a matcha tea ceremony in our room!

Inside Japan provided plastic cards for travel on public transport and I was keen to use them. I think you learn much about a country when you travel that way don't you? The metro to the hotel was quick and easy, and we decided to use them again to catch a bus to the Philosopher's Walk. It's a couple of kilometres along a canal lined with cherry trees. And tourists.

That part was a little scary:

a. finding the bus stop when none of the streets are marked in anything we could read

b. trying to enter the bus from the front, when everyone knows that's the exit only c. wondering if our cards would work on exiting the bus (they don't cover one particular company) or if we'd have to hold the bus up counting out change

d. knowing when to get off

Two darling Japanese women with much giggling and pointing told us in Japanese what to do or where to go, and the giggling spread through our section of the bus. They seemed confident we'd work it out. Thankfully we did.

At the beginning of the walk there was a slight breeze blowing, petals were drifting down and blanketing the canal in parts, and everyone in sight had a phone or a camera. Is it any wonder.

It's said that the walk is named after a Kyoto university professor who taught philosophy and made this his morning ritual. I can only say that despite the crowds, it was truly contemplative. Impossible not to feel calm.

There are bridges every fifty metres or so, where you can stand to take photos along the way which is lined with tourist shops and tea houses.

I think I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

I'd love to see inside this amazing copper house! It was oval in shape with copper sheeting running vertically. The houses on one side seem to front on to a woodland area and are rather smart.

Had enough? They call cherry blossom watching hanami. Can you imagine the number of photos of this canal taken each day?? By the way, I didn't bring John's camera or the back pack on the trip after all. I thought that I'd never carry it. I did bring my compact, but all these were taken with my iphone.

Would you buy boiled bamboo shoot from this dear man? I would, but we didn't.

I don't think it's all cherry blossom but it's hard to tell when the branches are leafless and they're ornamental varieties we don't see at home.

Neither of these men could believe I wanted their photo. The one on the left wasn't keen on the idea, but was persuaded by his friend who thought the whole thing a riot.

At the end of our walk we turned left and walked over this bridge.

And there, we found the Nazen-ji temple, one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples in Japan. Did you know there are over 2000 shrines and temples in Kyoto? It would take a very long time to see them all! We were running out of daylight and energy, so we wandered around the facade. Apparently the grounds inside are well worth seeing.

This is one of the bell pulls outside the temple. The faithful seemed to pull on it once and then pray. After I've been with the guide tomorrow I'll let you know why.

I rather liked this statue at the side of the building. He was tucked away where not many would find him.

I've always thought Japanese lanterns a little kitch. They look just right when they're authentically mossy stone and where they're supposed to be.

A Japanese delight right down to the lineup of chochin.

The sun was low in the sky on our walk home, when we passed this fragrantly lilac perfection.

I couldn't help crossing the road to see what turned out to be the Okazaki Jinya Shrine (I know because a few French tourists told me).

Okazaki shrine is believed to be one of four shrines built on the four compass points when Emperor Kanmu moved the capital to Kyoto in 794. (Tokyo only became capital in 1868.) In 1178 the shrine received an offering from the empress praying for a healthy child, and even today many people come here for the same reason and explains the rabbit sculptures (fertility) and these little plastic chaps. I'm not sure what you do with them!

These boys were good sports to pose for me - aren't they wearing very military looking school uniforms?

A little further on our route, we could smell kebabs cooking. Pork kebabs. On the footpath. I'm not sure if there is a Japanese name for them, because I couldn't read the sign. I think they're called kushiaki. Yakitori if they're chicken. The smell was enough. Guess what we had, on the spot, for dinner?

Impossible to resist.

Eventually we crossed the Kamo River which runs north-south through the city. What a beautiful afternoon.

We arrived back at the hotel on dusk and had a beer before we came upstairs. I'm ready for bed aren't you?

Hope you enjoyed our first day in Kyoto and the Philospher's Walk. Tomorrow we have a Chris Rowthorn guide for the morning and then a different one for a maiko experience in the afternoon.

It's going to be a great day buddies, so it's time to sleep!



"I never travel without my diary.  

One should always have something

sensational to read on the train."  

                                - OSCAR WILDE

shelley dark 

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