Sunday, October 8, 2017

Kyoto Day 4- Bamboo forest

While a leisurely stroll among nature is long known to be relaxing, the Japanese have gone so far as to not only give the practice a name (shinrin-yoku) but studied it extensively. From the shinrin-yoku forest medicine website:

"Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world. 

The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved. "

However much stock you put into such claims,  the bamboo forest in Kyoto is one exceptionally lovely (albeit smaller than I had anticipated) locale to partake in some soothing plant-gazing and walking. Depending when you visit, there may be crowds of people milling around, dispelling the illusion of solitude quickly. I happened to visit during a relatively quiet time, and managed to snap these. When a van rolled through the narrow lane it really helped to illuminate just how tall these bamboo shoots are... bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants, is it not? 

If your visit finds you here on a slow day, you'll be able to enjoy the sound of the wind rippling among the towering flora.  If it's summer, the cicada will join in to bolster the chorus. 

Who knows, maybe, just maybe, you'll feel rejuvenated, too.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kyoto day 3- part 5- dinner in town

After hiking Fushimi Inari, I was quite tuckered out for the day and ready to retire. However, my stomach was quite vocal about the need to replenish after expending so much I made my way back into town, or at least the area I was staying in. It took a little while to find any places open and enticing at the late hour and I got turned away from one place (which was behind the artistic elevator door shown below)... Eventually I found a place that was open and serving, so I found myself a seat and ordered up a dish of yudofu, or tofu hot pot. The yudofu is pictured above, a simple dish of tofu and vegetables in a light broth, a quintessential Kyoto classic of sorts. There's no need to overcomplicate things, instead the natural flavors of the composite ingredients are allowed to meld and mingle in the gentle broth. It's really a lot more delicious and lot less bland than it may sound, believe me. 

The dish came with a couple of sides, pictured above. Potato salad, simmered items (ube, burdock root and lotus root) and fruit. 

After refueling I stopped in at Pan & Circus for a drink and to say hi to my new friends at the guest house before returning to 9Hours for the evening to crash. Since it was late I managed to snag a few photos of the more private areas, like the bathroom pictured below.


Check back soon for the next post.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Kyoto Day 3- part 4- Fushimi Inari

I'll be honest: when people shout that any destination as a "Must-visit!" or "Must-see!" it seems a little pretentious to me. Travel, in my humble estimation, is the accumulation of your own uniquely crafted experiences and being told what to do tends to motivate my inner rebellious teenager into a conniption. Who are they to tell me what to do?! Don't tell me how to live my life! Every time you travel you're going to carve out your own personal story of the location and the experience, and how dare anyone tell me how to shape my personal adventure! Huff. 
That all being said, I have to admit I'm really quite happy that I made the time to take a trek out to Fushimi Inari. This is one of those spots that earns such prodigious accolades, often ranking pretty high on lists telling you what you absolutely must do while visiting Kyoto.
Well, rest assured that I'm not here to tell you what you must absolutely do. No, I recognize your own independent role as creator of your destiny...However, I would like to suggest that perhaps, if you so happen to find the time, you might like to make your way to Fushimi Inari. 

There are reasons why this location, among a few other top spots, is considered such a veritable symbol of any trip to Kyoto. Among being an absolutely beautiful collection of architecture, offering some unique views of Kyoto from above, it's also one of the singular most photogenic places I have ever set foot. Even with my novice photography skills, it's impossible to leave a trip here without at least a few stunning shots. I look forward to the next time I may set foot here, someday, as I'd like to think my photography will have improved and rendered my results even better than these... however, that time has yet to come, so for now, please enjoy my attempts to capture the serenity and stunning views I encountered during my mostly solitary sojourn up the mountain. Arriving rather late in the day as I did, most shops and little restaurants or snack stalls were closed for the evening, and the trail up the mountain was desolate aside from the abundant cawing of crows. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Kyoto day 3- part 3- Nyakuouji-jinja

After crossing paths with the kindly stranger and the kittens along my walk, I found myself at a smaller temple. Nestled upon a small hill shrouded in forest, this temple was particularly mysterious with the absence of tourists (who were amply abundant at most other sites throughout the city) and, unfortunately, my less than stupendous grasp on kanji. Smoke billowed lazily from a small smoldering fire near the front, and while an uninterested man tended to the grounds it was quite quiet. I explored the area a bit and found my way to the top of the hill, which offered a wonderful view of the city. A change of perspective is rarely a bad thing, really. 
As the sun began to dip lower in the sky, I started making my way back towards the more occupied areas. I walked through many residential streets and enjoyed the small glimpses into daily, normal life for the people here. One of the best parts of traveling is the exposure to other ways of going about the same basic things all civilized humans must tend to, be it architecture or chores. Strolling along on foot provides ample opportunities to notice small details and surprises during your journey. That, perhaps, is why I try to walk as much as I can when I travel. Driving, taxis and trains are all fabulous means of getting to a location, but once you're there try to enjoy it and live in the moment. The smokey charr of the fire as it crackles, the rustling of the wind through the leaves and grasses of the forest, quiet chatter of school children...these provide the tapestry with which we can weave memories. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kyoto day 3- part 2- Tetsugaku no Michi

The Philospher's Path.
Just the name itself speaks to me, conjuring images of contemplative souls plodding along the pathway of stones or gravel with heavy concepts tumbling around inside their minds. Threads of thought teased out to their fullest extent on a cool afternoon, or perhaps a revelation on a humid summer day while the sun berates the face of the thinker and beads of sweat roll down their brow. Perhaps the thinker would pause and enjoy a bowl of cool soba garnished with grated daikon, or a warm nabe on chilly days, before resuming their purposeful pacing. It sounds heady, wise, or pretentious depending on the interpreter, I suppose.  I enjoyed my walk along the path, stopping to take in sights or small details along the way. There was an antique kimono shop I would have liked to spend more time in, and a substantial portion of my funds, but time and finances were not on my side this time. I did pick up a couple omiyage (souvenirs) for friends and encountered a quiet, kind-hearted stranger who tended to the stray cats in the area along the way. While I, personally, am not much of a cat person, I always take great joy in seeing humans interacting with animals in a positive and peaceful manner.  It was all the more serendipitous given that the path was really quite a solitary stroll for the vast majority of my excursion.