Kyoto is Japan`s old capital. It is a mash up between the old world and the new. The city is beaded with temples that are in many cases over a thousand years old. Here`s the wild part, you might see the most incredible temple with a moat filled with coy fish and a crane walking through it, only to find a main street next to it. Ok, that was a run on, but what I am trying to say is that the old world and the new world live hand in hand in each other`s midsts. Only Japan is a polite enough country to accept the two conflicting worlds.
More on the politeness of this nation; I got to speak to a bilingual local about how helpful everyone is and how clean the place is. He said that its more or less in their religion to put yourself in someone else`s shoes when they ask for help. How could I forget? Japan is largely a Buddhist nation. But in addition, they have the local religion of Shinto, which is something new to me. I asked him why there was no crime. I remarked how the ATMs have a maximum of $10K USD that you can take out of them. I said, this is the only country that I would actually feel safe carrying that much money on me. He said that it`s not that it isn`t tempting, Its that people don`t want to lose everything over a few bucks.
He said that if you get caught for robbery, It`s 5 years in prison and you pretty much lose your job and family after that. People`s whole life is over if they commit a crime. The same is true in America, but usually the people who steal are the ones who don`t have much of a life in the first place. So success is the durant of crime? Sounds about right. How does every one get into that spot though?
This is the first place I have been that I could actually see myself living in. Such an amazing culture that I can so obviously see how much I have to learn from. Such a pleasant place to be as well. My endorsement to everyone reading is: if you want to see a place with beautiful nature that is easy to travel in, go to New Zealand. If you want to go to a place with beautiful culture that is easy to travel in, go to Japan.
Getting to Kyoto via overnight bus, I was able to save money on that night`s accommodation. Even though I swore off overnight buses, I was luckily enough to get a spot with an empty seat next to it. I was able to get some sleep while sticking my feet on the ceiling of the bus and in a bunch of different funky positions. The rest stop was spotless and had a vending machine at the cafeteria instead of a waiter. It was amazing for efficiency but a real job killer in western eyes. You get green tea served with every meal and it actually tastes good with the given meal. Real green tea alone tastes like pond scum. But some how, heat that shit up and it goes very well with all Japanese food. I don`t even like regular tea at home, but this stuff is great, as long as it is hot. Some places serve it chilled and it is almost unbearable.
Kyoto station is incredibly huge. Inside is a full mall and underground is one of the coolest fish market cafeterias Ive ever seen. Well, Its the only one Ive seen, but still amazing. Here you can just get as much octopus as you can handle along with everything else that is customary to make in Japan. This station is so big though, that I failed in getting from one side to the next 5 times. Literally, it was an uncrossable object. It kept spitting me out on the side I started. I was forced to walk around it, and if you could see how big this thing is, you would wince!
I found out why the cities are so clean though, they are cleaned by an army of government employees over 3 shifts during the day and night. This place is Disney Land clean.
Wondering down the streets of Kyoto, I stumbled upon the largest wooden structure in the world. It is a castle/temple that is findable by just strolling down one of the major streets. It was earth shatteringly large. And empty, which is why I like to travel without tour groups. I was able to find it as a mistake. I was able to feel like I was the first to discover it. This is why I don`t read guide books. Because I can form my own opinions about things as they come, not what some Ivy league educated Journalist thinks of the place.
One this major structure was a sign that read “Now, Life is Living You”. And I thought about it, and thought about it. What does that mean anyway? Does it mean that we aren’t in control after all? Does it mean that there is a great power that is playing with us like a bunch of chess pieces? Just think about it.
Does it mean that “Now” is for life and not us and that the only thing that we get a crack at is interpreting the past and obsessing about the future? Does it imply that “Now” is something that we have no control over and we might as well enjoy the ride?
I travel alone and largely ignorant, making my own conclusions of where I am by being there. I don’t read the guide books. I don’t pre book my accommodations. And I don’t take guided tours. Is that something like the statement?
Here are a few sets of photos that I owe everyone: