2005-06-03 - 12:54 p.m.
all photos © 2005 by Elaine Radford
Monday/Tuesday May 25th
It was a long flight, and the cheap-out on the drinks was pretty damn pathetic. C'mon, you don't get an entire can of soda on a 13 hours flight? Not even one? The food was bad, too, but you know that going in. You really don't expect them to try to dehydrate you, though. I'm surprised some of the older folks didn't go into spasms.
I landed at the shiny new airport built on the newly constructed artificial island. No birds, not even a pigeon. I just found the hotel and collapsed. The sun peeped in my window about 5 A.M. and my body clock was sufficiently screwed-up that it seemed like a good time to hop out of bed. I checked the water, but still nothing except maybe a couple of terns out in the distance.
pigeons doing what pigeons do best -- eating and flirting
I availed myself of the free breakfast and internet, then bought a ticket for the famous shinkansen. Along the way, I noticed my first bird of Asia. Yes, Feral Pigeon. Did you really expect anything else?
I bought my ticket and found my train/car/assigned seat with approximately one minute to spare. The ticket seller asked me the time I would prefer -- 9:17 or 9:28. I picked 9:28 to give myself time to orient myself. His body language gave me to understand that he was terribly disappointed in this choice and that I should try again. So, OK, 9:17 it was. I don't know if the later train was actually full, or if he thought I was impugning the split second timing of the rail system. (Although all I really doubted was my own ability to find the right place to catch the train.) In any case, I got where I was supposed to.
It was a smooth ride, with no real sensation of speed. So I don't really know if we actually went 268 miles an hour or whatever the claim is. I suppose so. We got there in a surprisingly short amount of time.
zen bottle garden, i'll leave you to derive the meaning of it all from first principles
At Nishi Hongan-ji I added Barn Swallow and Carrion Crow to the list as I strolled the temple grounds. There was a huge Gingko Tree there. I forgot to write down its age, but I think they said it was planted in the 1300's. Both of these temples were having some reconstructive work done on some of the buildings, but it probably kept the crowds down. A couple of times I wandered into temples only to discover that a service was in progress, so I slipped back out. I know they want visitors, but it always seems a little weird to be watching people who are trying to worship.
on the way to toji pagoda i encountered the good colonel and in front of the toji temple complex i met with many turtle hatchlings
view of toji pagoda (and a lot of haze) from kyoto train station
Today I caught the bus to the Gion District and got off near the entrance to the dramatic orange and white Yasaka Shrine. A large moth, or perhaps a thick-bodied butterfly, landed on me and flashed its fluorescent flash. As I drifted behind the shrine, I heard the calls of the Crows, both Carrion and Jungle. They'd discovered a huge trash pile and could talk endlessly about this marvelous treasure. I was worried that I couldn't tell the two species apart, but the difference in the forehead shape was indeed striking, especially when the birds were so thoughtful as to pose side-by-side.
Moving into Maruyama Park, I enjoyed the water, the irises, and the continued conversation of the Crows. Sometimes these bossy birds even charged the resident Pigeons, apparently just to assert their superiority, since they had nothing else to chase. I could see the Japanese influence on Avery Island, but it makes you appreciate our much larger variety of birds. Any park like this in Louisiana would be chock-full of birds from warblers to red-tails. They did have some large red-eared turtles, but an alligator or two wouldn't have gone amiss in that scenic little pond.
waterfall at maruyama park
I felt sorry for the two maikos that I watched walking up the street. They were stopped constantly and asked to pose for photographs. It must take them hours to go anywhere. But they didn't seem a bit put-out. Indeed, no matter how many times they were stopped by German tourists or Japanese schoolgirls, they always had a smile.
I enjoyed some open-air noodles and beer at one of the tents at Kiyomizu-dera. The place was simply crammed with school groups. It's a Buddhist temple but the main business of the place seems to be what we'd consider witchcraft. Going up one hill, you come to a huge love shrine selling all manner of love charms. Going down another, you find students drinking from the magic waterfall that is supposed to help them do well on their exams. The schoolgirls wear sneakers with their uniforms, which left me wondering how exactly they prepared for their future of riding a bike in pointy-toed high heels while holding a parasol.
if you can't lie with photography, you're not trying, here's a snap of kiyomizu-dera deceitfully framed to make it look quiet and above-it-all...
...and here we have the real thing with a tiny fraction of its huge flocks of schoolchildren of all ages having their pictures taken, interviewing or having photos made with gaijin tourists, drinking magic water, and buying magic love charms.
I hiked around the hills behind Kiyomizu for awhile and then headed back near the hostel, which was steps away from the river.
along the way, i encountered many a mysterious stone, shrine, or whatnot that i couldn't interpret, this impromptu shrine with a mouse figure on the path to the kiyomizu waterfall was certainly one of the most poignant as i assume it was a child's wish
here's a blow-up of that mystery mouse, now you know about as much i as do about this shrine or altar
juvenile japanese wagtail, the adults are black rather than gray
You have just finished reading Part One of my Kyoto trip report. Stay tuned for Part Two, coming up soon.
this moth or thick-bodied butterfly which perched on my leg had lopsided fluorescence in real life too, it isn't just a trick of photography, you tell me the meaning and the significance of it all
update: i won't bet money on it, but this species could be the male Freyer's Purple Emperor, Apatura metis
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