Saturday, April 1st, 2006
Dear Japan – it’s called WiFi. It’s great. You should look into it. That is all. Another unbelievably fancy hotel last night and again, their idea of internet connectivity is a second phone jack.
More snow greeted us on the morning of our last full day in Japan, but thankfully the weather would only improve from that point on. First stop would be Arashiyama, at the southwest end of Kyoto, and a very brief and brisk rickshaw ride around a few blocks of the town. Then it was a leisurely stroll through some towering bamboo forests to the station for the Sagano sightseeing train, a quaint little engine that trundled through the Hozu River gorge, eventually depositing us in Kameoka City.
The ride would have been a lot more impressive if the cherry blossoms were in full bloom as opposed to full bud – while some of them were finally beginning to emerge, the trees as a whole were still more bare than bloomed. With things finally warming up, I expect they’ll be busting right out within another day or two. On one hand, it’s a shame we’re missing that but on the other hand, with the cherry blossoms come huge crowds so maybe we’re lucky after all.
Then it was back into Kyoto proper for a quick stop and lunch in Maruyama Park, home to the rather imposing Chion-in Temple. There wasn’t time to actually go in but I did get a moment to contemplate the busker in the park singing the theme from “Rawhide”.
A little ways north was the Path Of Philosophy, a picturesque little pathway along a ravine that was favoured as a site of contemplation for Zen philosopher Nishida Kitaro in the early 1900s. Again, if the cherry blossoms had been in bloom, this would have been stunning. As it was, it was merely pretty. That was another quick stop as our lightning tour of Kyoto continued on to Okazaki Park and the dazzling vermillion structures and broad gravel courtyards of the Heian Shrine. It was a setting tailor made for epic martial arts showdowns but sadly, none were in the offing that day.
The final stop of Kyoto was easily the most dazzling and certainly one of the city’s finest attractions, the towering Kiyomizudera Temple. Dating back to the 17th century and built in honour of the deity Kannon, it sits high up on a hill overtop Kyoto and offers a magnificent view of the city from its observation platforms. I’m told that the massive system of wooden supports that holds the whole thing up is built entirely without nails or fasteners. You have to see this thing. It’s cr-aaaazzzy.
That was it for Kyoto – the rest of the night was spent driving down to Osaka with a pit stop for dinner at a bizarre Korean BBQ/all-you-can-eat buffet.
It occurs to me that without the pictures to accompany the text, these posts are reading like a bit of a laundry list of places around central Honshu. Sorry about that, but my brain was stuck mainly in observe and absorb mode, rather than analyze and critique, which is just as well since I’d look like a bit of a damn fool trying to analyze Japan. I’ll have photos up on Flickr over the next few days.
Tomorrow – Osaka and a wrap up.