So round two of Kyoto, and I have to admit that I'm proud how much Igot in. Although I did not get to see the Imperial Palace yet, or the famousNanjo Castle, or the fun-looking Eiga-mura, those will possibly be future ventures. But honestly, I think I've finally had my fill of temples, castles,and samurai-related gift shops.Good times all around though. Got to the station a little early so Could run some 'errands', which was namely me just trying to get some money for the trip. I went on a $150 budget. That would not have even gotten me home. But I was lucky enough that my father was able to put some money in my bank account, so I could do an advance withdrawal from a post office. Discovering this has made me very happy, as I always seem to be short of money, spending too much and sending too much home.
Before meeting with Mike, I found myself a quaint little zen-garden called Shosei-en. It had a 'optional donation' of 500-yen, which I found myself paying for even on the low budget…but it was worth it. They gave me a great map, which I would have surely been lost without, and explained the history behind the place. It wasn't crowded, just a few older couples here and there.It was pretty simple, with a couple ponds layed out, some bridges, rocks and some beautifully constructed buildings. It is originally said that this gardenwas on Heian era site of the rokujo Kawara-in mansion of Prince Minamoto noToru, the son of Emperor Saga in the late ninth century. The prince made thepond here resemble the rustic Shiogama seacost of distant Oku province (presentMiyagi prefecture), and even brought in seawater from Namba(Osaka-bay) to givethe pond its finishing touch.It was later in 1641 that the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu presented alarge parcel of land to the garden owners. Although burn down in 1858, just like everything else in this city, it was rebuilt a few years later toits original condition. A National Historic Site, it was great to wander intothis little treasure.
I went to Kyoto with my guitar, the first guitar I played and boughtin Japan. I was playing it outside the station where I met Mike. It was aclassical-style 'Ovation' (yet named Applaud? Japanese translations…), and Isay 'was' because I decided to give it to Mike and Helene, my friends who'vebeen putting me up in Kyoto during my visits. It felt right to give it to them(sorry it's not a violin Mike!).
For the rest of the evening, we checked out the tallest wooden structure in Japan, the Toudaiji. I went back to Mike's place afterwards to check out his new place.His house is HUGE compared to mine. Inexpensive, well-located, old-style house;I loved it immediately. Spacious, with spare rooms, it was a comfortable stay.That night he had his house-warming party, which is really reminiscent of oldtimes. Beers, music, guitar, friends in a tight little apartment/house, andgood junk-food. There were some friends of Helene that came over too, a coupleof really cute Japanese girls I wish I could have gotten more time to get toknow.
We set out early the next day for aserious hike. I didn't know how serious, just had a vague idea from theguide-book I have from Lonely Planet. But, sure enough, I ventured off from thebeaten path "because this hidden path behind a statue looks so cool".We were discouraged at first, then encouraged again when we saw an old manpointing the way. He DID say it was "difficult", but that iteventually led to our destination: Daimon-ji. The location of Kyoto's famoussummer festival, this mountain has many bonfire locations spread out along apath that are lit at night in August, illumnating the mountain in a big 大 symbol (which, ironically, means BIG).
Getting there was rough. Wescaled up a steep mountain, looking for markers but finding few, when we cameupon a cematary. I would usually deem this bad luck, but the sun was shiningand it felt more peaceful than eerie here. We soon found the true trail fromhere, leading us up to the summit and probably one of the most beautifulpanoramic views I've ever seen (still waiting on the photos Mike!). It waspacked with tourists and kids, who had taken the easy path up to it.From here we wandered down to Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, wherewe were swarmed with more tourists. It wasn't all that amazing really. Thezen-rock piles were impressive, but with the tourists, and it being past thespring-beauty bloom, it just didn't feel that special even after itsrennovations. From here, we hoofed it to Sanjusangendo (a hall with 33 spacesbetween columns). Sanjusangendo, officially known as Regeo-in temple, is a NationalTreasure. It was established by a powerfulwarrior-politician Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1164. The original temple was lost in afire, but it was reconsructed in 1266 and has remained unchanged for 700 yearssince then with four great renovations during that period. The long templehall, about 120 meters long, is made in the Wayo style architecture, which issomething you can see in many of the old-school temples like Ise-Jingu, fortheir piece-by-piece jig-saw-like assembly. The thing that got me about this place was the amount of attentionthat is paid to detail. There are 1001 statues of the Buddhist Deity here,Juichimen-senjusengen Kanzeon, or simplified as "Kannon". There are1000 standing statues, and one gigantic seated statue. Every single statue isdifferent and unique in its own way. Many Japanese people say to look forsomeone you know in its ranks, since there is bound to be someone thatresembles. I swear I spotted Ariel in there somewhere…you chubby Buddha you. Scaterred among these are the ｐowerful and dynamic statues of theThunder and Wind God. I liked the Thunder one the best, who reminded me of Goku from Dragonball on crack. On the same line in the front, are twenty-eightimages of the guardian deities. Most of these have their roots in India,origially. Arms and heads are carved separately, then joined together, coatedwith lacquer, and finished by coloring. Also interesting about this place is the traditional Japanese archery contest that takes place here every (5?) years. Kyudo (Japanese Archery), is a very difficult skill to master. The string and bow are very thick and strong, providing much power with proper execution, but also requiring much skill on the part of the user. I helped write an English speech for a student of mine last year relating to his trials with Kyudo: "The string would always hit my face. I hated Kyudo." (of course there's a happy ending!) Well, at the competition, young boys AND girls (practiced by both traditionally), would set at the end of the hall, and attempt to fire as many succesfull arrows into the wood at the end of the 120-meter hall. I think a young man a couple hundred years ago set the record at 18000 arrows…or something ridiculous like that, in 24 hours. If you ever try Kyudo, you'll learn to appreciate the sheer physical strength and will-power of someone capable of doing this. After that, we headed to downtown Kyoto for some shopping and arcade-gaming. We found the Gundam pods there (Gundam is a space-machine,map-operated robots, like Transformers with people in them). In the pod, it was almost a complete 180-degree screen around you. You actually felt like you were in this thing. It's all online, so we had to get help from an assistant to setup our account (500-yen), and we got our playing cards. We had to choose our faction too (I chose the bad guys…Zeon side). I think Mike went with E.F.S.F(Earth Federation Space Force). I kicked ass…until I ran out of money. The next day was a trip to Osaka…which I leave for another entry. :D