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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Kyoto - Home of Yoda, Green Tea Ice Cream, and countless Almond Eyed Beauties

Do you know what this means? why not?

So here I sit, waiting for my hotel check-in, at 7.30am, in Akasaka Macdonalds, Tokyo, surrounded by overworked salarymen eating breakfast and working like crazy to prepare for the day ahead, and homeless teens snoozing before they head off and do nothing, and I can say I’m very glad to be back here in Tokyo. Apart from the stressed out guy next to me cracking his fingers in frustration. (very bad habit,  by the way, you know who you are!)

I spent the last week in the Kansai region – known as the ‘heart of Japan’. Mostly that means Osaka, Kyoto, and a whole bunch of medium size cities in between.

We started off (myself and my trusty Japanese Sensai) on the overnight bus to Osaka.  I think for trips outside of the Tokyo region you either should

1.     1. Speak a decent bit of Japanese
2.     2. Buy Lonely Planet as it does have good transport guides and hotel stuff (despite my usual slagging it off)
3.     3. Get a Japanese friend/girlfriend. I think this is the best fun way.

So i'll tell you about the craziness that is Tokyo later, meanwhile here's some inane blethering about the rest of Japan....


This is the Zen Bhuddism capital of Japan, and maybe indeed the world. The force is strong here.  It’s the only city where I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Yoda walking out of a curious alleyway in Gion. 
Street Scene in Kyoto

The main thing to see here are temples, shrines, Zen schools and monasteries, but the whole city has a different energy. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a young Geisha (Meiko) running to class, or a few walking to entertain clients up these interesting little lanes and private doorways that litter the old part of town (Gion) Even the rivers look civilized here. Zen permeats and civilises the whole city. To put things in perspective, I got a bit annoyed when a western girl blatantly walked in the side door of the Kenin-Ji Zen Temple without paying (I’m sure if she really was broke, she could have asked at the front and they wouldn’t have charged) which both makes me embarrassed to be western here with crappy dishonest people like that around, but more to the point,  its against the whole spirit of Zen – I mean she was visiting a Zen temple after all, surely she should get the karma thing? Anyway, she’s probably got food poisoning right now and it’ll serve her right. 

I always wonder what adventures lie down these mysterious little lanes...

Putting the whole thing in perspective, I had a good laugh about the fact I considered that a big issue here in Kyoto, when I checked the news this morning and saw the riots all over London. No wonder the Japs think we’re dishonest, rude and violent – its actually mostly true.

Little Meiko running to singing class
Why does this arsehole keep turning up in my photos?

Anyway, there are more than a dozen world heritage sites here. Some of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see on earth. Two places really stood out (for me at least)

One was the Golden Temple. When I took pictures, it just looks like a postcard. The gardens are pretty good too.

The golden temple, Kyoto, looking suspiciously like a cartoon

The other was/were the Zen gardens. I went to two but there are a few so just look it up. Really peaceful places to spend an hour or two in the sun. The small one at a temple complex (i'll add the name later) is quieter, while the bigger nicer (and more famous) one in the photo below was so crowded with American twats talking about Britney Spears (or whatever they talk about so loudly all the time) that it was difficult to appreciate.

Another good fun thing to do is walk around the nightlife area at night in Gion. Lots of bars, pretend Geishas to chat up, and it looks like a lot of naughty stuff (but only If you speak Japanese as no-one speaks English!)

To get around Kyoto I hired a bike, which I recommend. Cycling around keeps you in a cool breeze, on a sweltering humid day like today.  I left my books and hoody in the basket and no one stole it all day when I went into museums and temples etc. Zen Bhuddism in action!

It must be a Kyoto thing, that almost half the girls were wearing Kimonos. These almond eyed beauties are a sight to behold, I think I lost count the times I fell in love. I suggest getting insurance for your bike in case you crash into a lamppost after losing yourself in a lovely daydream.

Ok, onto Osaka tomorrow....

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