We’ve been in Kyoto since Sunday and have loved this beautiful old city despite the fact we’ve nearly frozen to death. It was supposed to be in the 50’s but we woke up the first morning to SNOW. It didn’t stick but there were flurries for 2 or 3 days. We were wearing all the clothes we brought – I had on a cami, a tee, a turtleneck, two sweaters, a jacket, scarf, two pairs of socks, jeans and gloves – and I was still freezing. My daughter Sara called me the abominable snow woman 5 years ago when we encountered 9 inches of snow in Boston, and this was just as bad. Still, we’ve seen a lot and consumed a lot of coffee and hot noodles!
Literally every corner, alley, and hillside has a shrine, temple or small altar. Some are huge and grand, others tiny and unassuming. We visited the Golden Pavilion covered in gold leaf, and stopped at a little trail side shrine with a tiny old an and woman dressed in hand-crocheted outfits.
The markets are bustling, from big and very fashionable department stores to little food stalls or souvenir shops selling good luck charms. The charms cover everything from general good luck to success on an exam or an easy delivery in childbirth. The food is amazing. Living in Hawaii we see a lot of food with Japanese origins, but in Kyoto they are famous for picked vegetables I’ve never seen. There are all manner of candies, cakes and pastries as well as huge displays of preserved fish, but the thing that took me by surprise was the little octopus roasted and served on a skewer. I passed.
This city is very clean, orderly and compact. People park their cars in impossible places. Front doors open immediately onto the sidewalk – but there are two or three small planters outside the step. We are staying in a small house in a residential area with tatami mats on the floors and the steepest stairs you’ve ever seen in a house!
The language is very foreign to me – I’ve learned please, thank you, good day and little else. My son has studied Japanese for nearly four years and he is doing an amazing job of getting us food, bus directions, and coffee. My ear just doesn’t hear anything familiar and it makes me feel alternately stupid and alone in this bustling city.
We leave for Tokyo tomorrow, taking the bullet train back to our entry point. I’m sorry to leave Kyoto but curious to experience Tokyo.