Saturday, January 29, 2005

Two Days in Kyoto

What a couple of days I've just had! My interpreter, Mariko, Chris Lee and I went to Kyoto. Everyone had told me that I must go-- "If you're in Japan, you have to get out of Tokyo and see the real Japan. Go to Kyoto." Boy, am I ever glad I did. It's unbelievable. Kyoto has 1600 temples and hundreds of shrines and I really felt like I was seeing some of the true history of this ancient culture.

We left Tokyo on Friday morning and took the high speed train to Kyoto. As we zipped along we saw Mount Fuji towering in the distance but I unfortunately did not get a picture of it.

We got to Kyoto and stayed at the Rhiga Royal which was lovely and very convenient-- and we spent no time in the rooms except to sleep.

Our first stop was Sanjusangen-do. It was originally built in the 12th century but was restored after a fire in 1249. The most amazing thing about it is the 1000 (!!!) gold plated, full size, buddhas-- 500 hundred on either side of a larger than life (to say the least) one. In front of the statues are figures of different buddhist deities. It was overwhelming and gorgeous. No pictures are allowed, and no picture could do it justice anyway. Mariko informed us that the "official" color of Japan had been red but when Zen Buddhism took hold-- such garish display fell out of favor. You could see the original color peaking out. I lit a candle and said a little prayer for my friend RoseAnne's father while I was there also.

We then went to Kinkaku-ji which is the home of the Golden Palace. It is breathtaking and I'm pretty proud of my camera skills on this one. The grounds are gorgeous and just inhaling and exhaling the clean air was soooo relaxing. We also had some tea in the tea house on the grounds. We also lucked out on the weather--- it was sunny and warm. It was here that I started to feel a true relaxation take over. Just to be out of the city-- but to be surrounded by such history and beauty and to be in Japan (!!)

Next stop-- Ryoam-ji which is a zen buddhist temple and has a very famous rock garden. I can't describe the quiet. It was so very peaceful and the simplicty of the garden (which tried to capture in pictures) just lulled me in to a kind of ultra relaxed state. The smell of the wood of the buildings was extraordinary and we enjoyed a long leisurely strong around the beautiful lily pond. I thought of my father a good deal of the day and of how much he would love to be seeing the things I was seeing. The rock garden made me think of him most, probably because of the garden he so lovingly tends at home.

Then it was on to Kiyomizu-dera which is.... well... we got there toward the end of the day during sunset and it was just breathtaking... again- the color of the buildings was just amazing. And the sun just turned everything golden. Everywhere I looked there was beauty. I'll never forget it.

All the way down the hill from kiyomizu is incredible shopping and I did a good deal of it LOL. I don't know how I'm going to get everything home.

We ran back to the hotel to check in and i took a quick shower and then it was off to dinner. Mariko picked a fantastic place and we had a traditional Japanese dinner though I have not been nearly as adventurous with the food as I could or should be.

We then took a walk around the Gion district-- lots of dark wood and bright red lanterns--- gorgeous.

Look for pictures on my website www.JoeCalarco.net
And I will write about our day 2 tomorrow.

We start tech tomorrow too so.....

I will also write more about what being in Kyoto felt like. It was extraordinary and made me think about a lot of things, like patience and peace and healing.

joe

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