Sunday, August 25, 2019

Reflections on Kyoto on My Way to Osaka (as a day trip)

I can't say I knew that much about Kyoto before planning to go there.

My perception was that it's a smaller, more charming counterbalance to Tokyo, a mega-metropolis with nearly 14 million residents and about 38 million in the metropolitan area.

But though Kyoto--with a city population of about 1.5 million is quite a lot smaller than Tokyo--as part of a metropolitan area with Osaka and Kobe, it's one the largest in the world, although with roughly 19 million residents, about half of Tokyo's.

So while Kyoto was Japan's capital for hundreds of years before Tokyo got that designation in 1868 as part of the Meiji Restoration, for the most part it feels like a big city.

Yes, there are some amazingly beautiful sights that I'm delighted to have visited. But these tend to be on the edges of town--though there are tons of temples everywhere--and predominantly the Kyoto I've seen is modern, Western and/or somewhat ramshackle.

So it isn't like walking around Cusco, or Krakow, eminently historic cities that are compact and walkable to the main sights.

Kyoto does have a decent public transit system--far more bus-based than subway, as opposed to Tokyo--and lots of taxis, so it hasn't been hard getting where I wanted to go.

But each of the great attractions I went to--the golden temple of Kinkaku, its counterpart of Ginkaku, the bamboo grove, Tenryu-ji Temple, Togetsu Bridge and Iwatayama Monkey Park of the Arashiyama district, the striking Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Kiyomizu-dera Temple are each more along Kyoto's edges.

Most involved a good shlep, often uphill, through a gauntlet of shops that felt quite touristy. 

I have no issue with locals trying to make money off visitors--many of whom seemed to be from elsewhere in Japan--but this lessened much sense of quaintness.

I've never seen places such as Kinkaku, the bamboo forest, the orange mountain gates of Fushima Inari and they and more are endearingly, eternally beautiful.

And reason enough to visit Kyoto.

It's a cool place to be, but you kinda have to seek to find the wonder within.

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