Ohayo gozaimasu [Good morning] from Kyoto, Japan!
Today is the beginning of my third full day in Kyoto, Japan and I have so much to tell already! Our flights went smoothly as our two groups of forty students chased the sun all the way to Tokyo, made a connecting flight to Osaka and bused to our final destination, Travelers Inn in Kyoto. Our rooms were just as I'd expect them to be, simple. We place cushions on the floor for our beds, which we remove during the day to make room for a small table. There is a small bathroom, robes, or yukata, and small cups for tea which I utilized all the first night.
The simplicity and basic comforts that I've experienced so far in Japan are really different from back home where life is full of stuff, whether we need it or not. In Japan I feel a sense of peace, or at least the ability to obtain calmness by retreating to a local park or temple whenever I feel stressed!
Kiyomizu was just the place. Pictured below with Kyoto in the distance.
We visited this Buddhist temple yesterday after a short orientation. Using only our feet, we walked from bustling city to forested sanctuary. (It was quite a shock to have 80 american tourists attempting to walk in downtown Kyoto!) This Buddhist temple allows visitors to contemplate the "next life", an essential Buddhist concept. Upon entering the temple, shoes are removed and we walked barefoot across the hardwood floors. Prayers are said by first washing your hands, throwing a coin into a box, ringing the gong, bowing twice, clapping your hands twice, and bowing once more. There was a slight haze in the air from the morning rain that made this first day feel like a dream, or maybe that was the jet lag...
While the quiet forests are wonderful, I couldn't pass up all that Kyoto had to offer! Large shopping malls are numerous. And I mean LARGE. One shopping plaza covers roughly 2.5 miles! Here you could buy anything from homemade Kimonos to embroidered dragon pants, or the newest edition of Ginger magazine?!
The one thing that I've absolutely fallen in love with while being here is...THE FOOD! I've eaten things that are familiar like egg drop soup and things that, well, I have no idea what they were. A local street right outside of Kiyomizu, a rather touristy section, had samples of Yatsuhashi, local sweet treat, pickles on a stick, various pickled vegetables, and Bao which are tofu, meat, or bean filled steamed buns. The Japanese have also brilliantly created soft serve ice cream that is not only green tea flavored but it available at your local 7/11! They really do think of everything here. They even have automated sushi bars where the plates of sushi come to you on a conveyor belt and you pay by the plate. Genius & delicious.
Today was also the first day of classes. I'm learning about volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis of Asia in a geology course and Japanese literature in my world lit class. Although it kills me to sit in a classroom for a couple hours during the day rather than outdoors experiencing Asia, I appreciate the ability to learn more about the culture and history that I might otherwise miss if I solely walked around the city. But of course the city is a textbook of its own. It has cool rocks, yay geology, and evidence of architecture with earthquakes in mind.
It might be hard to see but in the left most photo there are stone bases at the bottom of the wooden pillars of the building. These are not actually attached to the ground, which allows a sliding movement of the building rather than a shaking movement during earthquakes. This small architectural feature is what has allowed these ancient building to survive for us to see them today! And of course when you walk around the streets of Kyoto with Dr. Wolf, you're bound to stop and look at the path cobbles and cool folds in decorative rocks in locals gardens...even if you did forget to bring your hand lens.
Spot the Crane!
|I figured I'd start off with an easy one.|