Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fourteen: Kyoto, Day 1

While I came back raving about Kyoto, our first day in the city was mostly unimpressive. Our normal unorganized city-wandering site-seeing strategy didn't work out for us that first day. We wandered most of the afternoon in a fairly modern part of the city, wondering where the heck all these temples were that apparently are everywhere!

And then, after a few hours of walking, we finally found a more historic district that had been waiting there for us the entire time, including the Nanzen-ji temple complex, probably our favorite site in Kyoto.

Here are a selection of photos from our first day.

The Kyoto International Conference center where Matt attended ICC. It was a strangely sci-fi design set in a beautifully forested and mountainous part of Kyoto.


Bamboo stalks at a shrine I don't have the name of (photo by Matt)

Bell at another unnamed shrine - worshippers ring the bell at every shrine to call upon the gods before saying prayers

I posted this picture as a preview last week, but I just had to post it again as it's one of my favorites from the entire week. As we walked through the city feeling discouraged and tired, we were on the look out for a coffee shop or tea house we could stop at to rest and refuel. We found this cute little coffee house, and the owner, who pulled us in from the street, was just a delight. He bussled around us most of the time we were there, serving us delicious fresh lemon squash juice and pastries. When I asked him if I could take his photograph before we left, he laughed in embarrassment as I took a few shots, but gladly obliged.

Because I have a natural aversion to photographing people, I am extremely proud of this photo. The composition is perfect, and I am no longer jealous of all of the professional travel photographs I see that capture candid moments in the typical life of a native in their own setting, living their life as they do day to day. I'm so proud to have my own now.

One of the buildings in the Heian Jungo shrine complex

Massive Kyoto torii

And we've come to Nanzen-ji. I cannot put into words the level of deep excitement and reverence we experienced when we found this temple complex that tucked into the side of the mountains. The structures were old and massive and unbelievably beautiful. You first come to the entrance gate.

As you walked through the massive wooden doors and columns, you see a narrow path lined with trees. And then Nanzen-ji.

Part of the beauty of this temple complex was the surrounding forest area it was set in. After wandering a modern, concrete city all day, it truly felt like we have left the city and entered into an ancient environment.

The beauty of this temple and its surroundings was overwhelming and rendered us speechless. It was exactly what we needed to see restore our faith in Kyoto at the end of a long, unsuccessful day of sight-seeing. We actually went to see Nanzen-ji again later in the week to visit it one more time.

(The last photo in the above group was taken by Matt.)

Look for more Kyoto adventures soon.

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