Kyoto

Kyoto is lauded for her ancient sites and beauty, so we were surprised to find most of Kyoto rather modern (sort of), nondescript, and not attractive.
Old neighborhoods are well hidden in-between many temples, but they are worth searching for.
We walked until our legs were stiff and our feet felt like they were no longer ours.
But we saw a lot!
Unfortunately, major temples are mobbed with people, predominantly Japanese tourists. I though that the tourist season was over in August, apparently not. The sheer number of people was just overwhelming! These temples have to be enjoyed in serenity, not in the company of thousands.
Other than that, I loved looking at temples, each having its own character and intricate architectural features. They are all set amidst carefully landscaped grounds – either in the woods, having a natural look, or in the middle of carefully laid out Japanese gardens. The areas between temples and shrines are residential, with the most beautiful houses we have seen in this city yet. You can walk on a path along one of the canals in tranquil settings, between rows of elegant houses mostly hidden behind tall fences.
While Takayma temples were intimate, rather mystical, and even spooky a bit, Kyoto temples are grand and worthy of a capital.
Elsewhere in Kyoto, women in kimonos and men in traditional clothes are a common sight on the streets. We saw a few in Tokyo, but here, they are many. There are also some geisha-looking women recognized by their distinctive makeup, hairdos, and elaborate sashes.
Incidentally, many women walk around with parasols. That looks a bit odd to the westerner’s eye, although not as odd as the sanitary masks worn practically en masse on the streets.
Outside one of the temples, we ran into a wedding party. A bride in a white kimono was led to the altar by her parents and protected from the sun by an attendant wearing a white rope and holding a huge red paper umbrella over her head.
Outside another temple, a group of schoolgirls in uniforms stopped us politely and inquired in halting English if we could answer some of their questions for a school project. The questions were routine:
– Where are you from?
– What surprised you the most about Japan?
But the last question was heavy and took me aback:
– What do you think should be done to ensure world peace?
Whoa! Can you answer that instantly?
I mumbled something about educating people about other cultures, but when I walked away it hit me: we all have to learn this from the Japanese – You have to forgive your enemy.

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