Friday, February 27, 2015

Raining in Nara

Day 5 in Kyoto, I took the Kintetsu express train to Nara. Unfortunately it was raining, but since I was able to borrow an umbrella from the hostel I didn't get too wet. Nara was the even more ancient capital, before Kyoto, and has some very impressive temples and shrines, as well as the deer which wander Nara Park. The deer are quite small, and just a little aggressive when seeking to be fed. Enough to scare little children at any rate.

I only went to one temple, as one of the other temples I planned to visit was completely covered up and undergoing major renovation. The Todaiji Temple, however, and its Great Buddha Hall were totally worth the trip. The Buddha is huge, though its hard to tell that from the pictures, and exerts a very powerful presence. I just sat for a while and meditated.

There were also some really old wooden statues, supposedly capable of magical powers like healing. Despite me touching the statue that looked more like the grim reaper than a deity who would heal me,  and then touching the body parts that are injured, not to mention also providing a cash donation, my back and leg showed no signs of miraculous recovery. Oh well....

I also made the effort to visit a shrine and purchase myself a fortune. If the fortune isn't all that good, one ties it to a piece of string, and if the gods see fit, then your luck will improve.

The wet weather was pretty persistent, but I was determined to visit a famous private garden known as Isuien Garden. Being a keen gardener myself it's always a pleasure to see how others interpret the aesthetic. Especially something as complex as a Japanese garden.

Some of the backstreets had some great "ancient decline" appeal, helped by the occasional rickshaw chappie, but it was cold and wet, so I headed back towards the train station, had soba noodles for lunch then took a train back to downtown Kyoto. It was time to go shopping.

Yet another joy of a Japanese city are the underground shopping centres and malls, that go for miles and miles without any need to ascend into the elements. There are some great electronics and camera stores, some impressive food emporiums, and lots of cute clothing boutiques as well as all the big name stores. I checked out some Sony lenses but didn't find anything I wanted, so decided instead to try and solve the problem of my limited wardrobe. Inspired by the stunning skirts I see everywhere,  I bought a simple skirt at Uniqlo that I can wear with my leggings. It may be boring now, but I have plans for it when I get home....

after modification, cute pockets
I'm really enjoying the energy of Kyoto. Although a biggish city, it's not frenetic like Tokyo or Osaka (neither of which I've actually visited). People get around at a relaxed pace, lots and lots of bicyclists of all ages, people young and old can be seen out and about wearing kimono, and the beautiful temples and shrines are still active places of worship. The appreciation of art and beauty is everywhere, from carefully tended potplants and bonsai, to gorgeous textiles, washi paper and woodblock prints, exquisite shopfront displays to day to day fashion worn in the streets. I could definitely live in Kyoto.

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