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.  


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kyoto Day 3- part 1- Ginkakuji temple


After terrorizing Gion by bike the previous night, I hauled myself out of my cozy little capsule and set about the day's adventures as early as I could rouse. To begin with, I made my way to Ginkakuji, another of Kyoto's famous and historic temples. While I must confess a lack of knowledge about the historic import or lore of the temple, it was certainly a beautiful place to take in and was quite popular with tourists from many different countries. There was quite a large, rowdy group that occupied several key photo opportunity spots for the location and confounded my attempts but I did my best to capture the scenery. This may not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with some of my other posts, but I'm not really a huge fan of crowds or loud people despite frequently finding myself in places where they proliferate. Spaces like this, which offer a sanctuary and zen in both their design and style, should resonate with that in their photos... 20-30 tourists having a picnic in the midst of a beautiful and historied place such as this does not sit well with me. In the end, it worked out well enough as the rest of my day was quite peaceful and the photos I did manage to capture turned out well enough for my skill at the time. From Ginkakuji, I made my way along the Philosopher's path. 
But first,  the journay to and resultant Ginkakuji photos!



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Kyoto Day 2- Part 6 - Gion



After refilling my tank with a robust and delicious meal, I still had some energy to burn so I decided to continue exploring the city by night. For a minute, though, I stopped in at yet another kissaten, or small coffee shop, for a quick cup of the beany brew before hopping back atop the bike and venturing onwards. I managed to find my way to Gion, a district of Kyoto with a bustling night life and beautiful streets, where Geisha wander the alleys and exorbitantly priced and likely equivalently incredible restaurants jostle for advertising space in the narrow passageways. Every area of Kyoto that I explored had it's own appeal while still maintaining an overall essentially Kyoto-esque aesthetic... it's a bit hard to put into words what exactly that is, though. There's a classic minimalism and simplicity with meticulous attention to detail that elevates the mundane to the luxurious, from the creation of humble tofu curds to the lacquer adorning the wood... being somewhat distant to the seas compared to much of Japan, there's more of an earthy feel to Kyoto, especially when compared to the bustling neon megatropolis that is Tokyo. People seem more reserved, to move more slowly and with more consideration, here. There's a quiet pride and contentedness in the precision and continuation of traditions carried on into modern chambers. Old meets new, without forgetting where it came from. and relishing in that history. It's a place that really resonated with me, and one that I very much look forward to visiting again someday. 

Photos, of course, will proliferate beyond the cut.