Kyoto : The Kindest Place on Earth?

I have to be honest – I did not easily take to Kyoto. It rained, was freezing cold, and it took several hours of wandering around in the rain to find a hotel that could (or would) give us a bed for the night. In a bout of home sickness I ordered pasta with blue cheese… which turned out to be a plate of plain pasta with about 2 crumbs of blue cheese. Sadly, I am not exaggerating! I mean, fair enough you don’t go to Japan to eat pasta, but I was expecting something a bit more impressive than that! At least it was cooked…

Apart from traipsing around the many shopping arcades and seeing the sights that Kyoto had to offer (a lady carving fruit among the more memorable sights!), we saw several beautiful and ornate temples.

We went into the dark underbelly of one of the temples, and were given a card beforehand explaining that it would be dark and we would be going “into the womb of a goddess”. I was having a concentration lapse at that point so even though I ran my eyes over this twice I didn’t take in what it said. So my version of this enriching experience was to stumble around in the dark for 5 minutes while gripping the back on my BF’s T-shirt like a chimp. Needless to say, I would recommend you read the card!There was also a “Love” section of temples where you had to walk about 15 metres in a straight line with your eyes shut and if you could do it, it showed you and your partner were meant to be. I remain skeptical about whether walking in a straight line really means true love. It sounds like a primitive version of those utterly meaningless text messaging services where you text a man’s name to them and they will let you know how successful your relationship would be. The Advert is priceless:- Girl meets Boy. Girl texts Boy’s name to this service. Text comes back negative. Girl is disgusted and throws drink over Boy’s head. And you too can have this kind of cosmic insight for the very reasonable price of £5…  😉

We found some lovely Japanese lanterns on a temple building while walking through a park. Every corner you turned was beautiful and traditional Japanese.

On our last day in Kyoto we saw what looked like a cooking display. A man was mashing rice into paste using a mallet. I think this was then used for cooking. We were unsure what was going on and we watched for a while, intrigued. The men saw us watching and seemed wary of us. Eventually we left to look at some (more!) temples nearby.

We pottered about inside the temples admiring the architecture and serenity, and some time later we returned to the outside world. To our surprise, one of the old men we had seen at the cooking demonstration was waiting for us outside the temple. He handed us a bag of white beans each, while bowing respectfully. We were overwhelmed that he had waited patiently outside the temple so he could give us this simple thoughtful gift. I was so touched by this kind gesture.

With our faith in mankind renewed, we headed back to the train station. Kyoto train station is an impressive monstrous glass building which seems a little over the top for a station! We took our seats on the train … destination Hiroshima!

Next blog: Hiroshima, Japan

Previous blog: Nikko, Japan

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