One to Grow On

November 23, 2009

Kyoto, on the fly

Filed under: Uncategorized — midway2go @ 5:29 pm

view into a shop on Teapot Lane

new friends

glimpses of geishas in Gion
Glimpses of Geishas in Gion



London, Paris, Florence… Kyoto? Yep. Kyoto has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other city in the world except Rome. So, how many days did we get there? One. Well, two nights, but only one full day to get a feel for the place. We did our best, out there by 9 am, back to the hotel after 8pm, the kids completely pooped, but still we didn’t even scratch the surface. We did love the little alleys full of shops and teahouses (and other tourists), and we had a fascinating lunch at a Japanese vegetarian buffet which served daikon radish at least 16 different ways (Rory enjoyed the rice very much). Our time at the Kiyomizu-Dera temple was a mixed success. We began by taking a walk that takes you down stairs, though a pitch-black cellar, so all you can do is hold onto the handrail, which is shaped like giant prayer beads, and stare uselessly into the void. Finally after several minutes of carefully feeling ahead, one foot at a time in the blackness, you come to a huge backlit rock and then to a flight of stairs which return you to the light. So in this literal world you’ve just had a few minutes to feel what it must be like to be blind. Symbolically and in the Buddhist tradition the path through the darkness represents being lost (the human condition?) and then you’re supposed to focus all your prayers on the rock. If you can do that then the force of your faith will turn the rock. After that the acsent into the light means rebirth. You can imagine that Rory and Nora found the darkness both fascinating and totally repellent, and the climb up the stairs was less about rebirth than relief and a return to the familiar. I was unable to budge the rock. Hmph.Nora got for her birthday a DVD put out by the travel site Little Travellers. It’s two girls who travel around with their mom who videos their trips and produces great DVD’s that my kids really love. Anyway, since June Nora has been watching the Little Travellers in Japan, and in so many ways she was the one who knew what was going on in the temple. When we came up to this one kind of trough with long-handled dippers Nora said, “This is where you purify yourself to enter the temple.” She dipped out the water, splashed it over hands, and dumped out the rest into the waste water. Right, then. We all followed suit. We wandered through the temple, trying to keep from getting swept up in the crowds of school groups and tour groups of vacationing Japanese retirees, watching folks ringing the bells and tossing coins and clapping and breathing in the smoke from incense. I peeked into the main room of the main temple, hoping to get a shot of the Buddha in the foreground with people in the background, and found myself face to face with a long line of fire extinguishers. Good thinking in one of the =biggest wooden buildings in the world.


We strolled down the hill, passing little altars and lanterns tucked into the hillside, to Otowa-no-taki, a waterfall down from the temple whose waters are believed to have healing powers. We lined up along with everyone else to use long handled communal cups to drink from. Now, half of the folks who were lined up whom where wearing surgical masks (a common site in Japan, and available in Hello Kitty, of course!). I wondered if the healing power of the water would be enough to cancel out the germ exposure, and, lo!, when we got closer we saw that after each use the cup was placed in an ultra-violet sterilizer set up behind the sacred falls. I love that about the Buddhists- have your beliefs, but let’s not be silly.























































  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! I’m horrified by the prices! We have Japanese people come here all the time and they load up on things here that are more expensive here. There was a guy recently who stocked up on designer blue jeans for $200 a pair because that was a BARGAIN!

    Keep writing girl!

    Comment by Amy — November 23, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

  2. Japan is now on our list of places to visit, whenever we get ready to go for our big adventure – perhaps in about 4 years. Definately want to see this Temple, and the boys want Rory to know that they are totally jealous of his birthday visit to the Ninja House!! I have been informed that I *WILL* take them there! 😉 – Sharon, Liam and Aaron

    Comment by Sharon O'Sullivan — December 6, 2009 @ 12:37 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: