I did it! I escaped the magnetic grip of Osaka once again. Somehow evading its mysterious tractor beam, I found myself on a train bound for Kyoto. I intended to spend more time there, but the last month in Kansai has sped by in a blur. The biggest festival in Japan, the Gion Matsuri, takes place annually in Kyoto throughout the month of July. Although the climactic parade and main festivities peak after my visa expiration, I found information on the web about a lantern parade happening today. Perfect reason to visit the cultural heart of Japan that I have been neglecting the last month I’ve been in Kansai.
When I arrived after a thirty minute train ride it was not at all surprising to see the beginning of rainstorm that would attempt to disrupt my day till the end. That didn’t curtail my expectations, but when I stopped at the info desk for a map they informed me that not only is there no festivities today, but also that the chance of seeing a Geisha is very slim… unless you are very lucky. I decided to press my luck and make the best of the day anyway.
The first destination was the Nanzenji temple complex. A city bus dropped me off a gigantic red torii, so I walked further down the road to the large temple gate in the distance. I arrived just in time to see a couple busloads of tourists getting dropped off, so I rushed inside to see the peaceful Zen gardens before they were overrun with the horde of people accumulating at the entrance. It wasn’t too surprising to see that the complex was already overflowing.
My hopes began to slip further as I also noticed that there wasn’t a sign of anything Zen. Although the buildings were fairly old, they still resembled every other modernized reconstruction. Then I spotted a sign saying this was the Heian-Jingu, one of Kyoto’s biggest tourist attractions… oops! I quickly high-tailed it out of the package tourist crowd and set off in search of the tranquility I was hoping for.
A ten minute walk down the road through an ever increasing rain storm brought me to my goal. Hidden amongst a grove of trees in the shadow of Mt. Yokakuryo Dainichi-santo is Nanzenji; a place of immaculate beauty and overwhelming peace. The structures definitely had a very historical feeling to them. There was hardly another soul floating around. It really felt like visiting another era. After visiting a never-ending series of modern replicas and true historical sights overflowing tourists this was a truly refreshing experience.
Tags: - Panorama, - Photography, - Transport & Travel, Asia, Japan, Japan: Kansai, Kyoto, Temple, Zen