Daniel in Japaniel


with 2 comments

The humidity of Kyoto is a beautiful thing, it guarentees that morning, noon, or night, your body will have a thin layer of oil and dirt. This especially made possible when you ride corner to mountain corridor corner of this city.

A group of eight of us mounted up this morning at around 9 and headed east to the river, and then north into the financial district. from there we took serene side streets, bouncing like maniacs on our one speed bikes, mumbling “ohayou gozaimasu” to the unsuspecting waking, walking neighbors. Around the western edge of the town hills picked up and we arrived in the “beverly hills” of Kyoto, mosterous tea houses and things of movies sat perfectly level, pristine with shades of yellow, brown and white, against the occasional gardens of block size.

Our first destination was Kinkakuji, or the Golden Temple. You’ve probably seen a photo of it before (go ahead, google away). We locked up our bikes along side the hundreds of other neatly lined up ones. A simple push on a button below the brake pads at once releases a jigsaw key and locks the front wheel from budging. 

Today was especially humid, with thunderclouds interspersed with blue openings. At the temple, Italian tour groups, aged couples, tiny (I mean coin purse tiny) babies alike were sweating and padding away with moist hankerchiefs. My own hankerchief (I proudly bought the other day for a dollar) is lemon yellow with bears on it. On top of the bear’s head are stakes of pancakes, meanwhile this pink bear in the background sings while sparkles shine around him. It says “Bear’s Park!” in the top. After a few days use, though, the colorful merchandise looks now worse than a car mechanic’s rag.

The golden temple was fantastic, I watched people watch a 600 year old gigantic bonsai sit on bamboo structures for awhile. Since the Japanese aren’t too fond of people watching as I am, I have developed (now only in beta stages at best) a system of acting like I am reading the complicated characters engraved against the wooden posts. It seems to work.

I ate green tea shaved ice (a specialty complete with rice balls and cream icing) while I watched no smoking signs blow in the wind like Shinto blessing thunderbolts.

There is then a path that runs around the Temple, however it was blocked off by more 6 inch diameter cut bamboo. Instead I wandered down the lake front (always with the foil building in view) while the occasional spider’s web framed by twisted pine trees filled my view. I imagine the elegant spiders as tiny Buddhas, doing their own thing, unaware of the sublime structures we’ve protected over wars and centuries.

I continued up the path to find tourists tossing pennies (yen) and dimes at little stone bowls surrounded by engraved buddhas (etc). Later I’d find the orphaned coins resting in drained mountain troughts / gutters along the mountain path.

The Golden Temple enjoyed, the 8 of us rejoined and split down the same beverly hills roads we came on. At some point, though, we missed a right turn down South and were immediately spit into (what seemed like) the most serene Amazon rainforest experience one could ask for. Moments before, one of the thunder clouds had caught up and poured on our gang, luckily we strove for this tunnel of low growing ginkos and pines, riding uphill with a concrete terraced flowing river on our left.

When we emerged, we turned right and went up the steepest road I’d ever seen. The road was broken into lines, exchanging/alternating between concrete and asphalt. Tiny smart cars motioned down with silent braking force. The drivers would bow slightly as we walked our bikes up the near vertical path. The rest of the ride was an air drying of the scars the short lived storm brought. We coasted down empty back alleys (again yelling Konnichiwa at anyone who’d make eye contact with the odd foreigners) while the scenery switched betwen Chinese style Zen temples, and anything from elementary to college campuses with their tennis and hard courts.

After some eating and more cycling, we returned to Koshoji for a quick detox before heading over to Tofukuji (a Rinzai temple in the southern area of Kyoto).

There, the now nine of us, walked around the largest Zen gate (still unsure what that means) conversed with the elderly, bowing excessively, and entered a Zen garden.

The quote about Zen gardens (“absence of form creates form”) was repeated in my ear as we walked in, however, the words couldn’t have pulled me further from the truth. Yes there were other Japanese walking around enjoying the sanctity and esoteric beauty of the scene, however, I doubt anyone was thinking of the practicality towards a Buddhist monk. Instead the group sat, after touring, in front of the more modest areas of the garden. Here it opened up to the lower river, it showed couples crossing “Heaven’s Gate’s Bridge”. We sat dazed as the melodic cicadas entertained our wandering minds. The cicadas here are beautiful singers… they sound like any other bird, however retain their clicking limitations as insects. They still though sing their hearts out (more so than in America) just for some sex.

After, as Paul, Charlie and I recounted the moment, we all agreed the signifcant emotions pounding in us (unexpectedly) while we sat at that simple spot. For me, the moment we walked in, I forced back the desire to bawl as hard as I could. The rest of the group understood the experience well as their own. The energy of the place was raw and deep, but mostly just beautiful to the eyes.

Since then I’ve been having dinner and relaxing in the nearby park. Waiting for this first day to begin. Waiting for whatever is about to happen.

In the meantime, I will just continue to sweat under the humidity of Kyoto.


Written by Daniel

September 7, 2008 at 11:37 am

Posted in wandering

2 Responses

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  1. spiders as little buddhas.
    i think i’d like to think of them as such from now on.


    September 8, 2008 at 4:00 am

  2. Avery

    September 9, 2008 at 1:28 am

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