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Ah, Kyoto!

Written by Jeff Drake
11 · 17 · 18

Our tour was supposed to avoid cities and focus on “culture”, etc., but Japan is not some third world country. Everywhere you go you see a bustling atmosphere, lots of office buildings, stores and restaurants. Let me tell you, the Japanese are apparently huge shoppers! You really have to hunt for something quaint and Japanese. Malls are everywhere! And they are very nice malls. In most, you could eliminate any signs written in Japanese and you would believe you were back in the states. We found this disappointing. I guess it was our mental presuppositions about Japan getting in the way of reality.

That said, we really like Kyoto. What do we like about Kyoto? Well, it’s a smaller city and it feels like it. But when you want to see what old Japan looked like, you can seek and find it. We had an optional tour to Nara that we decided to pass on. Nara has the largest wooden building in the world, housing an immense statue of Buddah. It also has the famous deer park. Here, deer are considered related to Gods somehow and are protected. The folks who went to Nara said there were a lot of deer there and they were aggressive. People are encouraged to walk amongst them and feed them food they give you. One lady got bit – not badly, but she wasn’t happy about it. All in all though, they said they enjoyed it. Lisa and I were, at this point, ready for some alone time, so we blew off the Nara tour for a day of adventure on our own. This experience contributed to our belief that we could easily have done Japan on our own – and really enjoyed it.

We spent the morning of our free day exploring the Nishi market near our hotel in Kyoto. What a fun market (photos below)! We sampled wares (like the baby octopus) and tried out some of the various types of mochi we saw in Youtube videos before we left home. Mochi, if you  don’t know is a Japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice. This makes it soft and somewhat gooey. It’s also slightly sweet. One in particular, was a mochi that surrounded a mandarin orange. Yum! And this market has some very nice shops. We got a lot of shopping done here. I even bought a bottle of sake. I’ll admit that although I drink saki occasionally, I’m not a huge fan. I still prefer wine or beer. But I thought that I should get a bottle of sake while in Japan and not just any bottle, something I can’t get at home. So, I did. The sake I purchased is a “craft” sake and only sold locally at two shops. It is pretty damn good! I will post details about the saki and also the restaurants where we ate later.

Nishi  Market:

 

My adventurous snack – baby octopus! The head is emptied and replaced with a boiled egg. Has a slight soy sauce taste. Yum!

We next did something our guide, Hiroshi warned against… taking the bus. He told us it would be confusing and he wasn’t wrong, but we talked to the hotel desk and decided we were up to having an adventure. We like travel adventures. So we took the bus to a place called Tesugako-no-michi. This translates to, “Philosopher’s Path.” We got there with no muss or fuss. Sadly, we both forgot to ask the front desk exactly how we take the bus back to the hotel. Doh!

You all know me, so you know why I just had to see the Philosopher’s Path! The Philosopher’s Path is just that – a stone path through Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. It’s very picturesque. The time to see this place is really in April when the cherry blossoms are all blooming, but I had to go anyway. The path is about 2 kilometers long. We got there too late to walk the entire path, but what we saw we really enjoyed! The path runs along a small canal. On one side are homes (very nice, quaint structures) and on the other are shops, snack stands and small restaurants. As soon as you get away from the shops, the path has few people and is nice and quiet. Also, the path is peppered along the way with wonderful old shrines, both Buddha and Shinto! I’ll talk more about the religions here in a later post.

The path gets its name from Nishida Kitaro, a famous Japanese philosopher who used to meditate while walking along the path on his way to Kyoto University. What a beautiful place to meditate!

The Philosopher’s Path:

I have more to say about Kyoto, but now I have to get ready for our farewell dinner. Talk to you soon!

 

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Author

Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.