Spring is here: sakura is blooming, the sun [was] shining and the vernal equinox has been transversed. What better time, therefore, to journey (at the kind expense of my parents) to Kyoto and wander through its bustling market streets and foreboding temples, basking in the same sun that nurtured the blossom in the time of the Shogunate? About a week after we actually did, as it turned out.
Upon arrival, Kyoto was grey and rainy, with businessmen and cars and just about everything that didn’t fit in with the idyll described above. At least Tokyo had been sunny. This rain dominated the first day, and unfortunately did not quite match the Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Temple) as well as I’d hoped. Even The Most Beautiful Street In Asia (according to messers L. Planet & co.) was slightly marred by the weather. I suppose we should be thankful that traditional dress often calls for a parasol regardless.
Thankfully the second day was far clearer, and setting off to find detailed restorations of temples and buildings seemingly waiting to be knocked or burnt down again allowed us some views of the rather more famous Kinkaku-ji and temples in the vicinity. Again, we felt somewhat defiant towards the Lonely Planet, who claimed that the bamboo grove outside the city was of such haunting majesty that any photo we took would fail to do it the slightest justice.
Our accommodation was of the traditional ryokan variety, which involved decidedly un-fetching green yukata and much eating, sleeping and lounging on the floor. The former was perhaps the most horrifying at times. Over the course of about two hours, we were presented with tiny plates and dishes containing all variations of ‘probably fish-based or at least from the sea’, including a particularly memorable pot filled with a substance of similar consistency to slightly curdled yoghurt. The quality and care with which it was served was unmistakable, but nevertheless the meal required perseverance rather than self-restraint. Breakfast was similarly enormous, but thankfully confined to one course and involving things that were more obviously fish and fruit.
I’m glad to have seen Kyoto, but have no intention to move there just yet. The Visitation of my parents was pleasant not just because they brought food (read: confectionary), spent money and provided company, but also because it forced me to experience more of the tourist side of Tokyo. Unfortunately for them, though they came in the first big wave of spring tourists, the blossoms had been partially delayed, and were rare. A week later and I could almost fill our strangely shaped bath with petals from one tree, were it not for the rain which seems to have followed me home.