Kyoto (Part Fifteen)

To Recap: In May, 2012 I went to Asia on the “Three-Countries-Three-Weeks-Three-Kids” tour. The first stop on this once-in-a-lifetime trip was Shanghai, followed by several days in Seoul. Now I was footloose and fancy-free (i.e., lost a lot) in Kyoto, Japan. I found one of the most beautiful and interesting places I’ve ever seen — just search for “Kyoto (Part Two)” through “Kyoto (Part Nine)“. (Yeah, that’s a lot of pictures of one place.)  The next day my daughter didn’t have classes so she started showing me the other sights of Kyoto, including beautiful and ancient temples along the Philosopher’s Path. The final full day took us to the Golden Temple and Nijo Castle.

The end was near.

After nearly three weeks in three countries on my first trip to Asia, I had to be on a plane that evening. I should have been exhausted, but adrenaline is a wonderful thing. There were two and a half hours before my daughter was meeting me at Kyoto Station, and I wasn’t going to waste them.

I had noticed that there were small shrines, temples, and gardens everywhere, and in looking at the city from the Kyoto Tower the previous day I had seen several within a mile or so of my hotel. It was time to start walking.

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The Shosei-En Garden had a type of architecture that I hadn’t seen before, as well as warnings everywhere to “Be Careful Of The Bee.” I was careful.

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Less than a half-mile from Kyoto Station, surrounded by a city that’s just about as crowded and busy as any in the world, you find this.

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In the trees around the edge of the park there were storks nesting in the tops of the trees. It must be great to have an apartment or an office in that building just outside the walls and watch them.

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On the ground, they weren’t having much to do with me, staying well out into the lily pads.

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Three blocks away, at the Higashihonganji Temple, I found this wonderful dragon fountain. No bees here, but there were signs warning against drinking the water. Is that really a problem and not pretty obvious?

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At almost all of the temples and shrines throughout the trip we would see school groups, from teenagers down to the little kids. This  one kid in particular was my favorite. He wasn’t going to stay in line no matter how much they yelled at him. It sounded like they were calling him “Joshua,” but that is almost certainly incorrect. Whatever. “Joshua” was my kind of kid, out to explore the world and in a hurry to do it! However, he had a cooler orange cap than I did.

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The Higashihonganji Temple was covered for the most part in scaffolding with major repairs and restorations underway. Here I found part that wasn’t, with a really cool circular underground room with glass to let in light? It didn’t seem to fit in with the buildings, rebuilt in 1895 after a fire destroyed the original buildings built in the early 1600s. On the other hand, as with many of the other shrines and temples we say, this one is not a museum but an active site of worship. In this case, the Higashihonganji Temple is the head temple of Shin Buddhism in Japan. So it might be a new, modern addition. (More information needed.)

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Nine blocks north of Higashihonganji was the Nishihonganji Temple. (Yet another World Heritage Site in Kyoto.)

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Nishihonganji is also a functional, operating temple, with some truly huge interior spaces, all created from massive wooden beams. In some ways similar to the architecture fueled by religion in Europe at about the same time (huge spaces, lots of power concentrated in the church), but also in some ways quite different (Europe went with stone and built up, not just out.)

With that, it was back to the hotel, checking out, saying goodbye to my daughter, getting on the train to Osaka, trying to stay awake while waiting for my flight, and then flying fourteen hours over the North Pacific to get into San Francisco.

Even crammed into coach, I slept well on that return flight.

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