In Kyoto I had a look into a splendid past and found harmonious places to rest. My journey from Tokyo was of the adventurous kind.
This article is part of a diary based travelogue from a six month journey in 1985 to several countries in East and South East Asia: Japan, Taiwan, China, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Friday 18.1.1985, Tokyo – Kyoto
Considering my limited time in Japan – the country is quite expensive, it was winter and I had done my errands in Tokyo and wanted to see more of the country, I left today in the direction of Kyoto, centrally on the Honshu Island.
Partly to save money, but also perhaps to experience more of the country, I dropped taking the train and enquired at my hotel where would be the best place to hitchhike from. I went out there and did not have to wait more than half an hour before the first car stopped. Unfortunately he wasn’t going further than Yokohama, a few kilometres to the south.
But it was a start after all and he was nice enough to let me off at one of the regular truck stops (cafes etc.) along the motorway. There I soon was allowed to ride with a lorry driver. And like that it continued first with another private car and in the end another lorry. The two guys in the latter vehicle were very nice, incredibly much actually. They drove 140 km more than they were going to for the single reason of helping me. Along the way I also caught a glimpse of Mount Fuji.
Helpfulness was by the way something the Japanese excelled in towards me more than this time. This quality seems to be quite common here.
Finding a place to stay
The place I wanted to find, Tani House, was a bit outside the centre of Kyoto. But even though it was late at night and the hostel hard to find, a youth helped me right until the doorstep.
- TANI HOUSE: (075)492-5489, 8 Daitokujicho, Marasikino, Kita-Ku, Kyoto. Take bus xx from railway station. Get off near (west) Daitokuju temple complex. The hotel is almost like a small, private residential house. It is on the north side of the main street, up a little side street 50 metres and to the right behind some other houses. The place only has a small sign above the door. (It still exists) The hostel was small, but nice and neat. Price: 1400 Yen. They have Western toilets (thanks and praise for not having the squatting stuff here) and communal shower. I ended in a tatami-room with two Dutch, freelance interior architects as a profession, and nice guys.
Saturday 19.1.1985, Kyoto
I walked along the main street outside my hotel eastwards for fifteen minutes and ended up on Kyoto’s only metro line. I took it south to the end station at the railway station. There I found the tourist information office and got myself a map and a description of various walking routes in the city.
After having looked around a little in a rather ordinary big city centre, I went off on of one the routes. It took me through a few temples, shrines and parks in addition to few pleasant streets which unfortunately were too crowded with tourists and souvenir shops. This route, ending at the Heian Shrine, was however very seeworthy in my opinion.
Kyoto is one of the most visited cities in Japan, both by natives and foreigners. The reason is that the city for centuries was the capital of Japan. And certainly one in such places will find magnificent buildings of many kinds. Emperors and shoguns do not usually sit idle by. And if you add that the Japanese as a people are fond of everything traditional, are religious and that the Americans bombed every major city in Japan in 1944/45 except Kyoto, you realise that there is much to be seen here in Kyoto.
There indeed were a lot splendid things I was to see in the days to follow; so much actually that I got tired of temples and the like for months. Although everything is great, it can get too much of it. (But let me not reveal the course of events to follow.)
Sunday 20.1.1985, Kyoto
I had decided to “do” Kyoto in a rush and continue my travel already on Monday. Today I chose the places I really thought to be most interesting.
They were both quite near my hotel. The first was Daitokuji, a conglomerate of religious buildings of all kinds, some with gardens and raked gravel. This is a Zen-Buddhist tradition and one can sit and study them (or more precisely meditate on them) for hours. These gardens were lovely relaxing and if I had been a true Buddhist I’m sure that the layout of these gardens would have opened their universal wisdom to me.
The next place I wanted to visit was the Golden Pavilion, according to the reports the absolute pinnacle of Kyoto. And indeed, the pavilion placed inside a beautiful park was truly splendid.
- The introduction to this journey to East and South East Asia
- PREVIOUS CHAPTER: Tokyo: the departure and first days in a distant land
- Kyoto: A look into a splendid past and harmonious places to rest
- NEXT CHAPTER Hiroshima: A terrible past