2 days, 3 nights in Kyoto, Japan

10:43 PM Jmo 0 Comments

     If your life was a book, would you read it? You. Would you find it interesting? Would you physically pick up a memoir with a mediocre cover, thumb through it's pages, get hooked, and stick around til’ the end because you are hung up on what might happen next?

     10 years ago, I would've envisioned myself at 25 years old as being "settled". I pictured my future self married, possibly with children, with a dog or two for sure. I imagined that 25 years would bring about the beginning to the resolution of my novel. Not in a morbid way! I just thought I'd be cruising through life at a storybook pace. I assume that most 15 year old suburban girls feel this way for at least one moment while growing up. We want to marry our fathers and paint our picket fences white. But as I write this, three days after my 25th birthday, I find myself having just boarded a plane solo to Osaka, Japan. Funny how plans go...
(I'm not saying that either of these futures is or has played out better than the other. I can't really compare the two: I'm only living one of them. To me, they seem both equally fulfilling and equally terrifying. Both can be viewed as an eminent fantasy and an eminent reality. It's just interesting and surreal to see which ring fell onto which peg. 25 is obviously some strange milestone for me. And I guess, reflecting on my comments above, I've finally figured out why.)
With all this in mind; all this floating around in my head, I plan on approaching this next impromptu year in Korea with the steadfast, ex-pat, mindset that "Not all who wander are lost."

     In my mind, to make my book worth reading, I need to put myself in situations one or two steps outside of my comfort zone. And if those one or two steps lead to a leap off a cliff, even better. Oh how things have changed: I used to be the girl who was too nervous to order her own food at a restaurant for the ridiculous fear of making a mistake and having her face beam red like a tomato. Now, I'm scrawling chicken scratch across the pages of my notebook because my plane just left the runway. So, it goes without saying that this trip was somewhat of a personal pilgrimage for me.

     I'm not going to pretend like I read Bukowski. But, I might very well start. I came across this poem the other day and it seemed quite fitting.

“My dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you.
Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness.
Let it kill you and let it devour your remains.
For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
~ Falsely yours”

     Remember that “comfort zone” I mentioned? Making art and travelling are very similar vices for me. I say vices because they are both love-hate relationships. They both terrify me, excite me, and leave me incredibly unsatisfied in the best way possible.


     I've never been this unprepared for a trip before in my life. I'm talking, running-around-the-airport-with-a-half-hour-before-boarding-looking-for-an-outlet-so-I-can-plug-in-my-phone-to-use-wifi-so-I-can-look-up-how-I-get-from-Osaka-to-Kyoto-once-my-plane-lands unprepared. I attribute this to a couple factors 1) I booked this trip so late! I finally set in stone going to Kyoto for Chuseok and hit "confirm your booking" about 2 and a half weeks prior. 2) It's such a short flight. An hour and 40min from Seoul. Surely anything exotic and daunting and intimidating should be at least a 3 hour flight away, right? And 3) Like Australia, it never really hit me that I was going. But. Here I am. Scribbling down these thoughts in a window seat. Fresh onion breath from the sandwich I just scarfed down because I thought my stomach was telling me it was hungry. Turns out: I have butterflies. Little tiny butterflies working their way up my esophagus making it difficult for me to breathe. This is my first time travelling %100 on my own. Seat backs and tray tables in their upright and [terrified] position. We're about to land.


Night 1: Getting to my hostel at midnight.

     I let my hostel know a while back that I had a late flight into Osaka and probably wouldn't arrive into Kyoto until around 10pm. They were fine with the late check in time and said that they would wait up for me. Well. My flight was delayed a wee bit and after deboarding the plane I was shuffled into a massive immigration cue that virtually seemed endless. (Standing there with my embarkment card and passport I looked about the crowd and questioned my destination. The crowd reminded me of the immigration line in Bangkok: An international melting pot of excitement and high-airport-fashion. It's going to be difficult going back to The States: The land of sweatpants and Kenny Chesney concert tees.) I was nervous, tired, and not looking forward to navigating my way to Kyoto when I met Kelsey and Mel: two English teachers from Korea who also happened to be going to Kyoto. Kelsey was an incredible woman. She has lived abroad longer than she's lived at "home". She's spent her last 7 out of 10 years teaching in England, Thailand, and now Korea. She was a sweetheart with a motherly tone and the genuine eye contact to match. Mel, on the other hand, was a little tougher to impress. She introduced herself to me with a breathy sigh and a brush off her I'm-never-going-to-see-you-again-so-why-bother? shoulder. In the immigration cue (before I turned around to use my "Hey! I hear English!" line) I overheard her saying "I love how people act like they're the only ones who have ever been anywhere." One tough cookie. She turned out to be lovely though. Both Kelsey and Mel held my hand for our shared leg of our mutual Japan adventure; helping me find my train, offering for me sit by them on the way to Kyoto, etc. We parted ways at Kyoto Station. They were taking the subway from there. I was too tried to figure out my way on the subway lines and it was too late for me to risk making a mistake. It was already midnight and I needed to make it to my hostel. I opted for a cab.
     I walk out to the curb, the bright lights of the city sting my tired eyes and I jump into the first cab I see. I immediately regret this decision. The little automated cab door swings open, I plop myself in, spit out my first "konichiwa" and boom: The car reeks of urine. My cab driver must've been at least 80 years old and had the plumbing to prove it. I didn't care so much about the smell, I just knew that communication would be an issue. I pointed to the phone number on my Hostel World print out so he could call and get directions in Japanese directly from the source. He pulled out a flip phone as old as he was and went back and forth squinting between the print out and screen for a good 5 minutes. It was, from an outside perspective, quite comical. But I just needed a bed. Preferably one that I already payed for and not on the street with my backpack as a pillow. We were getting nowhere with the phone number. He claimed it didn't work, but I could see that he dialed it wrong. I had the address, but it was written down in English. So. Back up plan. I told him it was located in Gion. "Gion!?" Yes, success. He knew Gion. I then shuffled through my papers a bit more to find a landmark he might know. I was worried he was going to kick me out of his cab soon. We'd been doing this dance for a good 15 minutes now. Finally I said, "Minamiza?" He repeated it back to me with an exclamatory upward inflection and hit the gas. He knew where that was. Perfect!
He dropped me off across the street from the Minamiza theatre and after a little more frustrated wandering, I made it to my hostel which was tucked away in an alley, off a side street, in Gion, Kyoto Japan. I stood outside the door of my hostel like Romeo awaiting Juliet; trying not to wake the rest of the Capulets. I pulled down gingerly on a cord that was routed through to the inside. I hoped it was connected to a bell. I don't know! I was tired and did not have a back up plan. This was my first time traveling by myself and I felt like I was failing. I made it this far but I was letting my emotions get to me. I was just about turn around and let the fluid that was building up in my eyes go when the door opened. I was greeted by two hostel workers who grabbed sheets and towels and rushed me upstairs to my mixed dorm room with whispers. I've never seen anyone tippy-toe around like them. I felt like a bull in a china shop (much like how I do everywhere in Asia!) walking down the hallways compared to them. They were sweet and told me to sleep now and pay later. Who does that!? Asia is so honest and trusting. I took them up on their offer, spooned my backpack, and fell asleep on top of the comforter in that day's clothes.

Day I: Good morning Kyoto!
(Looking back, it's crazy to think I was only walking about Kyoto for two days. Honestly, it felt more like a week, week and a half! In a good way of course! An amazing way actually. I was able to take so much in, in such a short amount of time. )

     I woke up bright and early at 6:34am because my mixed dorm was full of dudes that apparently all had sleep apnea.  I rolled around for a bit, grappled with the lovely fact that I was in Japan, grabbed some cute breakfast at a cute little mart and was on the subway by 9. The subway was easy enough to navigate; that is when I didn't have my map 4 inches away from my nose like the uber tourist that I was. What set me on my way, truly, was a lovely subway attendant that not only pointed me in the direction of the train that I wanted to take, but also found me once again when the train was coming into the station to tell me when to get on. It was all one big game of charades; one that he didn't have to play but was kind enough to do so.
I was on the train headed for Fushimi-Inari. This was essentially number one on my list of things to see in Kyoto. I challenge you to open any survey book on Japan and not find an image of this shrine. Its orange gates are iconic. I remember the first time I saw a picture of them actually. I don't remember where I was, or how old, but I remember the feeling I had. I thought a destination like this would be unattainable. Some place that "other people" go. Not lil ol' me. But here I was. I crossed a bridge and walked through a little town full of touristy shops, food stands, and mostly Japanese tourists. Walking up the hill to the first set of torii gates was the first of many incredible experiences I had on this little adventure. The bright orange of the beams contrasted with the surrounding forest to create an interesting push and pull between man's hand and the natural world. It's obvious that the gates and stone path and shrines were put here by man. But the way in which they weaved in and out of the trees was as if they were sprouted up from nature. I think Japanese architecture has a way of doing that. They are truly masters of blending the lines between nature, tradition, and innovation. (At least in Kyoto anyway. I hear other parts of Japan, post-war cities, have an entirely different feel. But for now, this is how I feel about it.)

And so the love affair begins:
     I wandered up and down Fushimi-Inari for hours. I was on a photographic high. I love photographing the places I visit and this was definitely no exception. I left the gates and followed a few narrow paths up the face of the mountain to some tucked away shrines. Fushimi-Inari is not solely an attraction for tourists. It's not archaic by any means. Worshipers come to pay tribute daily and new shrines are being tended to and built. Every once in a while you would walk by a shrine and smell fresh incense or see little pieces of paper stuck into the grooves of rocks. Walking down the other side of Inari, the gates faded away and the path turned into a labyrinth of shrines made out of stone. Lucky foxes stood guard with keys in their mouths and every so often there was a vending machine to remind you you're in the 21st century.
     I made my way back down through the village to find myself my first real Japanese meal. I heard that I needed to try Japanese-ramen (Not the 15 cent packages we used to choke down in our college days! The real stuff!), so I set out to find some. I ducked into a darkly lit restaurant on the corner close to the train station. They advertised about 7 different types of ramen so I figured I was safe here. I sat at the bar, ordered up my fist ramen and first beer, and took in my surroundings. Down the bar from me there was a business man eating out of two noodle bowls reading a manga comic book. (I might be in Japan. Not sure.) The food was amazing and was definitely going to tide me over until the next time I planned on sitting down. It was huge!

     I still had half a day left on my side and was too attached to Fushimi-Inari to leave just yet. So, I pulled out my handy-dandy map and trailed my finger along nearby streets to see what else I could find close by. The Sekihoji Temple, aka 500 Buddha Disciples, stood out to me for obvious reasons. I wandered through a few neighborhoods, mosquito-landed paths that led to nowhere, and a few graveyards before I finally reached Sekihoji. This place was incredible. This was my favorite thing I saw in all of Kyoto. It can't compare to the Inari shrine's scale but it was beautiful, peaceful, and modest. Pass the temple, follow a path that winds around the base of the mountain (Fushimi-Inari is on the other side) and there you'll come across, I'm assuming, 500 Buddha statues nestled into the growth. It was honest. That's the best way I can describe it. These statues weren't gaudy and glorified by any means. They were actually quite crude and primitive. But that's more my style anyhow. I think shrines and pieces like these evoke the true feeling and connection that a worshiper has to their religion or God rather than making something covered in gold as to convince others of your devotion. The little Buddha faces made me smile. I stood at the base of this landscape, by myself, in the quiet. The bamboo forest surrounding me let in light but blocked out sound. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them, I'll admit it, I teared up. I just needed to stop, think about where I was, and let out a sigh out of happiness. Somehow, I'm fortunate enough to live a life that I can just stop what I'm doing, hop a plane to Japan, and smile at little Buddha statues that were smiling back at me.
Before I left this area I needed to find a pebble. The first statue along the path of 500 Buddhas was covered in small stones, no doubt meant to represent the Buddhist tradition of cairn building. I know this is done in Korea, usually along mountain trails, to bring good luck. But, I needed to find a pebble to add for my Aunt who passed away the day before I left. She was an artist, so I tried to find one that she'd appreciate. I found a blue and white marbled one and nestled it in with the others. I love you Aunt Helen. Thank you for your never-ending love and support. We will all miss you.

      By this time of day I was a sweaty mess. Hiking all morning with two cameras in my bag and a stomach full of beer and salty ramen was not doing my appearance any favors. But, I can tell you one thing, the mosquitoes were okay with it. Walking back down from Sekihoji I was swarmed. Good thing I was alone because people might've thought I was insane and having a throw down with an invisible Shaolin Monk. I realized I was little dehydrated when mid-swat I thought to myself: "Hey, I wonder if these mosquitoes know that they're Japanese?" Yep. Hydration. Stat. Luckily in Japan, a little vending machine is never too far away. I mean, they're everywhere. No exaggeration. There were at least 6 peppered throughout the shrines at Fushimi-Inari. I had fun taste-testing all the little juices, coffees, waters, and teas. My favorite being a milk-tea that tasted a lot like Thai-iced tea. With drinks in hand I made my way back to Gion on the subway and took a much needed shower (in my hostels amazing wooden steam room/shower!) and layed down in my bunk for 10 minutes. 10 minutes was all I could spare. I had things to do. That night I was planning on heading to Gion Corner, a local theatre and tourist hub, to take in some traditional Japanese performances -including a dance by a maiko (apprentice geisha). I had some time to kill before the show so I stopped off at a little coffee shop to do some writing. I sat by the window and ordered a Cafe Japanese. Extremely touristy, I know! But dang was it good. It was an iced green tea latte with large chunks of espresso jelly floating in it. My kind of crazy-textured drink! A kind of drink that I would order, my Mom would eye and say "Can I have a sip?", and I'd say "Mom, you know you're gunna hate it.", but then she'd take a sip anyway, squint her eyes, and look back at me with a 'Why do you drink such things? face' as she went for a glass of water.
     I sat at this coffee shop for a while; people watching etc. I looked up at one point because there was a crowd of people gathered by the corner of my window. I looked up a little too late though. The crowd had gathered because a pair of fully dressed and makeup-ed geisha were getting into a cab. I dropped the ball. Those were the only two geisha I saw outside of my time at the theatre. Annie Griffiths wouldn't of been proud.

     My main reason for staying in Gion was to indulge my literary and historic fantasy of the old world entertainment of the geisha district. One of my favorite novels, Memoirs of a Geisha, is set in Gion. That night I took in a performance at Gion Corner, located at the end of the Gion strip. The show setting was pretty touristy which is unfortunate because the performances themselves were great. The entire show was only an hour long but within that hour you were treated to six aspects of Japanese culture. It started off with a traditional tea ceremony which I volunteered for. I sat at the base of the stage as a woman brewed, with exceptional care and poise, the most amazing tea I've ever tasted. It was thick, green, and had a gritty froth covering the top. A hostess served us the tea, turning the bowl two times before placing it front of us, and bowed. I'm so glad I raised my hand. After the tea ceremony there was a traditional court music performance and dance, then a short comedic play. The play was great. It was the type of intermission short that would usually be performed in between acts of Noh theatre (a style of Japanese theatre, like Kabuki). The plot was simple: The master of a household was going out for the evening but was nervous that his two servants would drink all of his sake. He decided to tie them up before he left for the night. Of course, the servants find ways to drink the sake while still tied up and end up being drunk upon the master's return. It was pretty funny. Another form of theatre was represented at the end, a creepy three-manned puppet performance, but the thing I came to see was the dance performed by a maiko (apprentice geisha). She was stunning. She performed two dances with such demure elegance that this bull-in-a-china-shop could never even hope to attain. I always thought that I'd view a geisha as being fragile; a doll that looked as if it could be easily broken. But she was formidable in her small stature. She moved with confidence, elegance, and intoxicating charm. She performed two pieces. One was a "butterfly dance" and the other was meant to represent a longing to express internal feelings that must remain hidden. Guess which one I found more interesting... I was transfixed.

     The show let out around 8pm. The night was young. I walked outside of the Gion district some ways and came across a bar/restaurant with reasonably priced starters and drinks. I wasn't really hungry; that ramen bowl from earlier still had a hold on me. But, It was my first real night in Japan and I needed to try something new. I sat at the bar and ordered some edamame and sake, served warm. My waitress and chef were adorable. She knew some English and he smiled at me from behind the counter with a toothless grin. A younger girl came in and sat down the bar a ways from me. I introduced myself and she turned out to be an EPIK English teacher as well. Small world! She was also travelling by herself for the Chuseok holiday. We swapped some travel stories and I took her photo because our toothless chef offered for her to pop behind the counter and cook up her own food. An adorable, adorable, man. He later gave a taste test of some smoked salmon and topped off my sake with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Christina left and I left soon after to do some more wandering. I crossed the river and found myself in the downtown high-rise district of Kyoto. McDonalds. Gap. all the things I could really care less about seeing while in Japan. That is, until I stumbled upon a Namco arcade. An arcade of claw machines. Claw machines have been the nemesis of my late night Korea outings. So of course, with a little sake as my guide, I had to make my stand in Japan. I won on my second try! A little purple duck, with a triumphant "Yeah, you did it." winky-face, is sitting on my desk at home as we speak.
     Like most nights out in Asia, time is never really a factor. I walked back towards my side of town and walked into a sake bar. I walked into a sake bar and found my friend Christina (the girl I met earlier on in the night) sitting at the bar. Turns out, her hostel is located directly above. Small world. Seriously. So we chatted it up a bit before she headed to bed and I ordered the Kyoto sake sampler set. Two of the sakes were brewed in Fushimi-Inari -which I guess is known to make good sake. I spent the rest of my night talking to Alex from London. Also, an English teacher in Korea.

Day II: Go!
     I woke up at 6:34am again. One of the heavy sleepers in my dorm must of had their alarm set for this time. I set out early to check off number two on my 'must-see in Kyoto' list: The Sagano bamboo path. I took a train to the end of the line in Arayashiami, got off, and followed a group of Japanese tourists into the main part of town. I looked at my map and found out that I could walk along the river, and then through a temple and it's gardens to reach the bamboo forest instead of walking through town. The temple gardens were beautiful of course and I even got to see a real koi pond. As I mentioned earlier, the architecture of Japan is stunning. I'm spoiled by it's simplicity and elegance. I actually ran into a friend of mine later on in the night who had this to say about Kyoto architecture: "This is not Japan.". She's been to other "post-war" cities in Japan and it's obvious that Kyoto is set apart. I guess it would be comparable to going to colonial Williamsburg, Pennsylvania and assuming that everyone in the United States lived in a brownstone.
     I walked out the back side of Tenryuji Temple and turned left onto the bamboo path. I expected this to be as important a moment for me as was walking along the side of the 500 Buddha Disciples. To be honest, it wasn't. It was beautiful of course. The sunlight peering through each bamboo thicket was a photographer's dream. That is if you could get a clear shot without someone else's tripod in the way. It was too crowded for me. I like my nature secluded. And lonely quite frankly. I like to be reminded of how small I am in this world; not how many people are in it. So I strayed from seeking the long winding path shots that you would normally take to describe these surroundings and tried to focus on other things that made this place beautiful. Even shooting the details of the forest I couldn't escape people-presence. Looking closely at the bamboo you could see that most of them were all carved up. "Kelly <3 Brent 4Ever", "사랑해", and my favorite... "G'day". It was a graffiti melting pot.

     I walked halfway down the path and introduced myself to a man who I could tell was also travelling by himself. My opening line: "Hey. There's a pretty awesome praying mantis over here." Turns out, his name was Iain (Yep. Ian, like my brother's name, with two "i"s.) and he was a Applied Mathematics professor at Cambridge University who tours Europe playing the viola when he's not teaching. I'm sure there are far less interesting people I could talk to over lunch... haha So! We joined forces, left the bamboo forest and hiked up to Iwatayama monkey park. Walking up the hill we swapped stories and bantered back and forth. It was interesting to be the vagabond-tattooed-hippie compared to his straight-laced-Cambridge-PHD. I felt like cameras should of been rolling. -We made it to the monkey park and I must say I was immediately creeped out. I had no real intention of going to this actually. I'm put off by zoos (especially those in Asia) and I'm always hesitant about any attraction involving animals, but Iain talked me into it. But this place, at least on the surface, turned out to be a little different than expected. There were signs posted all over saying 'Don't stare at monkeys in the eye', 'Don't feed outside.', etc. A little concerning. Yes. But it was clear walking around the plateau of the mountain who was in charge. We went inside of the visitors "cage" to feed them from the outside. It was a beautiful role-reversal actually. We were the ones inside of the cage and the monkeys hung on the outside, sticking their paws through the fencing, asking for sweet potato chunks. I say "asking" intentionally. They hung there with one arm extended through the cage with their paws open upwards. I swear if you listened close enough you could hear them whisper in a sweet little British accent "Please sir, can I have some more?" I reached forward with a piece of food and the little guys would gingerly take it out of my hand dragging their tiny fingertips across my palm. It was a strange feeling. Still not quite sure how I feel about it.
     Iain and I got lunch at a little restaurant down the mountain that, as we ate in, became more and more crowded with groups of Japanese school children. There's nothing quite like a Japanese school uniform. You would've thought we were taking part in a Gilligan's Island convention with all the little white bucket hats. After lunch I convinced him to try some mochi. Pronounced "moe-chee", these little bundles of joy are similar to Korean rice cakes like songpyeon -but better. We tried two varieties that were both covered in a gelatinous honey glaze and dusted with some type of powdered sesame seed or nut. I was beyond full. Iain and I parted ways and I decided to wander and shop for a wee bit until moving on to wander and explore elsewhere.
     I looked at my map and decided to take the train North and walk my way, from site to site, through an area by the Golden Pavillion. I had no real interest in seeing the Golden Pavillion. I read somewhere that it was one of the most visited places in all of Japan, but still that didn't draw me in. I'm more interested in eroded ruins than re-constructed gold fabrications. So, I didn't go out of my way to see it. Sorry!

     I got off at Omuro-Ninnaji station and walked up an empty street to Ninnaji Temple. The temple grounds were widespread, empty, and beautiful. The layout was similar to a temple I visited on Amyendo Island, Korea. The entry gates were beautiful and stripped away of any decorative paint that might've been. They were raw and the temple guard statues were similar (once again) to those I've seen in Korea, but understated. There were a couple pagodas, a few alters, and a rock garden that unfortunately I couldn't go into because I was in dire need of an international ATM and needed to save what little yen I had left for a few different entry fees and, oh yeah, subway fare to get back to my hostel! I left Ninnaji  and walked down the left side of the street until I came across another temple. I wasn't planning on seeing this and I wasn't even sure that it made it on my handy-dandy tourist map. But, yep, there it was: Rengeji Temple. This was a cute little hilltop temple that was mainly composed of smiling Buddha statues, gravel pathways, grave markers, and tiny little ceramic Buddha effigies. Those little guys were my favorites. Dozens of porcelain, celadon, and natural surface clay monks nestled into the bases of each statuesque marble Buddha. Adorable.
     I set back out on Kinukake-no-michi (the name of the road) and made it to Ryoanji Temple. Ryoanji Temple houses perhaps the most famous Zen-Buddhism rock gardens in the world.  Dated back to the 15th century, the rock garden is a meticulously preserved work of art. There is debate as to what it's forms are meant to represent, islands etc., but I thought that the forms and lines were more interesting and beautiful on their own rather than trying to turn them into something else. I hung out on the ledge overlooking the garden for a wee bit; resting my bare feet and letting them soak up some sun peering over the ledge of the temple wall. I was surrounded by quite the diverse crowd on that ledge. The demographic was fairly young; the oldest person being around 40. There was a woman cradling her child, a modern-age hippie couple with blonde spirally dreads and matching bracelets swaying back and forth in an embrace, and a man with his back against a support beam reading a book. It was peaceful and not as touristy as Iain made it out to be. Perhaps it was because I went there in the late afternon. Make note!
     The next stop on this Jessica-tour-de-force was the Inshio Art Museum. I saw a couple posters up around Gion for the travelling exhibition that was currently showing there and it seemed pretty perfect that I happened to be in town. The exhibition was called The Power of Monochromatic Drawings. Since that's what I do, I felt like it was a sign. I've also always been influenced by Asian art; especially Japanese. So, for me to step foot inside the country and not see some art would just be irresponsible and stupid. The sake could wait. It's meant to be served warm anyhow.

     The museum was just up the street from Ryoanji just before reaching the Golden Pavillion. You couldn't miss it. The outside of the building was covered in plaster reliefs of suns, and moons, and faces and other ...mess. It didn't look good. I'm definitely happy that modern museum architecture is what it is right now. Minimalistic. We dodged a late-80's bullet for sure. Anyway! The art inside was pretty interesting. The museum itself was dedicated to one artist aside from the travelling exhibit space. It was interesting because it chronicled his work from it's roots and beginnings in traditional (ink and brush work style) to his more loose and expressive work (still using the same medium) in the 1960's. Pieces were either hit or miss for me. But it was amazing to see that style in person as opposed to on a screen or in the pages of a book. I definitely took some things away from it.
I was pretty exhausted. I should look at my map one time to see if I can calculate how far I walked in one day. But, there was more walking to be done. I needed to walk back to the train station, head back to Gion, change and get ready to go out and meet Professor Iain after his Gion Corner performance. I met him at the theatre and we went for sushi. First time in Japan, had to try sushi. We ended up at a little alley bar that was far more comfortable and my style than I expected any sushi establishment to be in Japan. It was unapologetically local and blue collar. Full of men slinging back beer and a hostess that was more than likely a Madame in her former life. We split some sushi, swapped some stories, and had a couple beers before heading out to partake in more Kyoto nightlife. I took him to the sake bar I was at the night before and we talked to the bartender for hours about art, film, travel, and the “types” of people that walk through here. I know I’ve said this thought an obnoxious amount of times but I don’t care because it is so true: You meet the most amazing people travelling. Living abroad or just travelling in general. It’s such an eclectic, diverse, and life-enriching melting pot. The people I meet along this road I’m on keeps me on my toes. They’re the itch I can’t scratch. They’re the megaphone in front of that tiny voice in my head that whispers: “Keep going. There’s more to see. There’s more to do.”
     Iain and I got a tip from the bartender to check out a Japanese karaoke room before the night was through. We did and I may never be the same. In all my years of theatre…I never met a man who could sing all of Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret without looking at the lyrics once. He was a champion.
With about 3 hours of sleep under my belt, I made it to Kyoto Station and got on my train back to the airport. I was exhausted in the best way. I spent my time on the train, flight, and bus ride back either drolling against a window and day-dreaming back to what I had just experienced.
One thing I've learned from Japan: I can’t wait to go back.


So. Can Kyoto be done in a weekend?: Yes and no.
-Will you see everything? No. Will you have an amazing time regardless? Yes. My advice, and advice that I've gathered from some of my much-more-travelled-than-me friends is: Plan to hit up a couple big sites, maybe one or two a day, and then save the rest of your time for wandering. Wandering is the best. I wonder where I will wander off to next!


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