I was going to post this at the beginning of my Kyoto adventures as an introduction, but it actually makes more sense to give you my full impressions of Kyoto at the end.
In my teen years, I used to be obsessed with anime and manga. I read and watched a great deal, even drew and planned my own works. I also became interested in learning Japanese for the first time, but as my interest in anime and manga waned (it became so hard to find new, original anime and manga), so did my interest in Japan and Japanese.
I then became obsessed with Korea and we all know how that went.
(Kids playing in a park near Nijo-jo Castle.)
My trip to Tokyo last year reminded me how much I enjoyed Japanese culture, but it’s this trip to Kyoto that’s tossed me into full-blown love. Tokyo was delightful and varied with its charms but it was busy, too busy. Kyoto on the other hand was slower, quieter and very proper in its bearing. It gave you the space to delight in the only thing it had, the only thing it needed to have.
Temples. Shrines. Castles. Palaces. History. Culture. All the things that make Japan, Japan.
(A tiny Inari shrine I found at the bottom of a tree.)
Kyoto isn’t ostentatious; it’s detailed and thorough in its mind-blowing beauty but it will not raise its voice to say so. It will simply usher you into your seat at the theater, make sure you’re comfortable, and let the show speak for itself.
It’s only now that I really get how people could become so enamored with Japan that they would devote their entire lives to try and understand it.
(Evil came from the northeast so they cut the corner of the Imperial Palace. The south was the good direction.)
Kyoto was very friendly to the solo traveler. I didn’t feel uncomfortable eating alone in restaurants or sight-seeing by myself. In fact, sight-seeing alone was a little easier than going with someone since there was such a strong invitation from the environment to absorb one’s surroundings and contemplate the universe.
That being said, what a great place to take a date! You and your date could rent kimonos for the day, choose one or two temples to visit, get your fortunes told and buy charms to protect and prolong your love. So cute.
I had an amazing, life-affirming week in Kyoto. I can’t wait to visit Japan again!
[This post was originally published on March 14, 2015. It has been backdated for the sake of tidier, chronological organization.]