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Archive for June, 2007

I’ll tell you about the city I live in: Kyoto. The heartland of Japan. The city that was spared from atomic bombing 50 years ago, because of its beauty. Yes, its beauty.

Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, who twice visited Kyoto in the 1920’s, was conscious of its irreplaceable cultural assets and concerned for the postwar reputation of the United States. He committed himself to keeping the city off the target list and stuck to that decision in the face of many who urged its atomic bombing.

source: Who Saved Kyoto?New York Times July 2007, http://www.nytimes.com

Kyoto is an inland city, thus far from tsunami risk, in a valley surrounded by inactive mountains, thus small typhoon and earthquake risk, 600 km from Tokyo (2 hours by shinkansen train). From its valley condition, Kyoto has the coldest winter and the hottest and most humid summer among the Kansai Region.

japan map

Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, under the name Heian-Kyo (Heian: Tranquility, Kyo: Capital) in the year 794 – late 1800. This long history is a solid base of what Kyoto is today.

Imagine, the 827.90 kmĀ² area of Kyoto is filled with over 2000 temples and shrines, big and small. The MUST see are:

kinkakuji

Kinkakuji (the golden pavillion)
a breathtaking gold-covered pavillion, built in 1393 as Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga’s retirement villa.

Kiyomizu Temple
kiyo = pure, mizu = water.
Drink the water for health, longetivity and success in study. Walk from stone to stone with your eyes closed to find love. Even when you don’t believe any of those, kiyomizu temple is still worth visiting. The pure water temple was built in 780 AD and know worldwide for its great architecture and serenity. Although due to the vast number of tourists visiting this place, to find the true serenity, I recommend you to go on early mornings.
Heian Jingu Shrine
Heian is built 1895, the main shrine during Kyoto’s role as Japan’s capital. Hence, it represents so much more than just a place to worship. You’ll be welcomed with large orange gate, beautiful calming gardens with lotus flowers in the ponds. It is also a home for the festival of ages (Jidai Matsuri), celebrated around October, to commemorate Emperor Kammu’s decision of Kyoto as the capital 1,200 years ago.

Ryoanji Temple
Ryoanji Temple is located near Kinkakuji, so pair both visits together. It is famous for its zen garden, you know…, the white marbles garden with some big stones in the middle…. Anyway, just sit there. Just sit. sit. and sit.

Ginkakuji (the silver pavillion)
Don’t be fooled by the name, unlike golden pavillion, silver pavillion is not actually silver….

Yoshida Jinja Shrine
Yoshida Shrine is dedicated to drive evil spirits away, thus the home of Setsubun festival.

Fushimi Inari Shrine
Built in 711 AD and dedicated to the god of rice. I am running out of words, just walk under ten thousands orange gates (torii) preferrably on sunset or sunrise and see how you feel.

The fact that there are endless temples in Kyoto affect so many aspects of Kyoto life. Kyoto, for me, is the perfect combination of modern and traditional sense. The perfect combination of serenity and excitements. I would walk out from the glorious steel building of my university, look to the left, and there it is, the protector of Kyoto University, the Yoshida Shrine, ancient and surrounded by hundreds years old trees, as though hugging and preserving the shrine.

redkyotocs2 serenity

Unlike other big cities of Japan like Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe; in Kyoto, you can only find tall buildings downtown, such as the new modern-contemporary building of Kyoto Central Station, since there are certain rules concerning the natural surrounding of the temples.

oldkyoto housekyoto

Small streets of Kyoto and a typical Japanese family house

The temples remember that this world is not for humans only. Because sadly, how many of us actually remember that? The areas surrounding the temples must be filled with trees for the birds and rivers for the fishes.

 

monkkyototowernihonjinnihonjin

Kyoto is fast yet not furious. The kamogawa river – an energetic river that cuts through Kyoto – is one of the places where we would have lunches with the birds, where we have our morning joggings, where we have the sunday afternoon coffees, where we drink beers while watching street performers, before we hit the bars and karaokes.

kamogawanihonjin2nightlife1

 

subwaybikekyotocs1

The main transportation is still bicycles and very few subway lines are available.

 

Kyoto is also the home of some of the most important festivals in Japan, like Obon and Gion Matsuri. They will start in mid-July and surely I will show you what I see and learn through this blog.

One result of moving too much is I hold on to one place that I call home, my hometown Makassar in Indonesia. Anywhere I move, I know I will go back to that place and simultaneously I try hard not to fall in love with my ‘temporary’ place.

But as hard as I try, I can’t deny it; Kyoto, I am in love.

.

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miyakoodori

Miyako Odori : Geisha & Maiko Theater which can only be seen in Kyoto

 

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*Kansai Region: Perfecturs of Nara, Mie, Kyoto, Wakayama, Osaka, Hyougo and Shiga. Populace speak in Kansai accents (Kansai-ben).
For example : “wakarimasen” (i.e: I don’t know) becomes “wakarahen” in kansai-ben.

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