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kyoto trip report part 2

2005-06-05 - 11:20 a.m.

nanzenji aqueduct

You are now reading Part two of my Kyoto trip report. To start with Part one, please click here. To check out the bird list, please click here.

all photos � 2005 by Elaine Radford
the neurotically combed gravel of ginkakuji

Friday May 27

In the morning, I decided to take another, longer stroll down by the river. I added Rufous Turtle Dove, Great Egret, Great Cormorant, and Little Ringed Plover to the list of the usual suspects. I was tickled to see that one of the Little Egret's feet was much more orange than the others. Was he a particularly testosterone-charged specimen or something?

Two juvenile Japanese Wagtails pinwheeled in front of me, squabbling briefly like puppies before they separated to feed. In one area, I happened upon dozens of Black Kites, some singing their eerie trill from the rooftops and TV antennas, others circling around me in apparent hope that I would feed them, still others feeding on fish or trash on the opposite bank of the river.

black kites
why condo associations go mad part 32:
black kites thoughtfully adjusting the TV reception
Since this is a budget trip, I decided to follow the advice offered by various Lonely Planet posters and make a breakfast of the eight zillion free samples of pickled vegetables put on display in the "Cube" and the basement of the Isetan department store at the train station. I'm sorry, but I don't care how many pickled mushrooms and cabbages you nibble, you're not taking in any significant number of calories, and I had to resort to eating as the locals do -- plunking down 250 yen for a green tea ice cream cone from the nearest streetside shop.

I also stopped by the post office beside the train station to withdraw some cash from the ATM. As I'd been warned, they only allow you take out 10,000 yen at a time -- a grand whopping $93! Fortunately, the machine did allow for multiple transactions, but still.

The scariest moment of the trip came when I visited the ladies' room, which is next to the police station. I heard a slamming sound that was almost like a shot and then all kinds of slamming and yelling. I don't know for sure what the heck was going on, but I'm going to suggest that if you were planning on doing a little shoplifting while in Kyoto, maybe think again.

On the bus to Ginkakuji, I glanced out the window and saw a Crow chasing an adult Grey Heron.

vip mosses

moss-covered waterfall

mosses are the star of the show at ginkakuji, even the "lawn" is moss
Once at Ginkakuji, I walked through the grounds twice to enjoy the zen garden, pond, and, of course, the "very important (like VIP)" mosses.

I then went behind the temple to climb Daimonji-yama. At the trail head, I met with Japanese White-Eye, and a short way along the path I added the vociferous Brown-eared Bulbul. I also heard plenty of what I would later identify as Blue-and-White Flycatcher, but this excellent songster was in no mood to show himself in the thick greenery. I got all the way to the top of the mountain, but it was steep going at times -- lots of steps! The view of Kyoto at my feet was well worth the effort, though.

sign at daimonji-yama
"give a hoot, don't pollute," ya'll...or maybe it's "only you can prevent forest fires," i can't read forest service slogans in japanese
On the way down, I met some high school aged boys from Osaka who tried to figure out where Louisiana was -- near California? Mexico? I said it was near Texas, and a light went off, and one of them said, "Mississippi," and then they all said, "Mississippi," so I think they got it. Don't know if they meant the river or the state but either way, I figure they had the general idea.

path from peak of daimonji-yama
check out that stone in the middle of the path, see it? ok, that is another hiker's hat, that is some steep trail up and down that mountain, ya'll
Back near the beginning of the Path of Philosophy, I stopped in a noodle shop and had a wonderful noodle soup with a delicious fish on top. I think it might have been a sardine. I'm not sure. It was a little large to be a smelt. But it was just as tasty. The only sardines or smelts that I've had that come close to beating it were the tiny fried baby sardines I had in Veracruz state in 1998.

Then I began to drift down the Path for real, almost immediately encountering a pair of handsome Spot-Billed Ducks. I continued to wander, encountering random shrines and temples, and even a beautiful shrine complete with fish hatchery with strings placed across the pond to protect the baby goldfish. The last spot on the Path was Nanzen-ji, with its huge temple grounds, including an atmospheric old aqueduct.

turquoise moth or butterfly on path of philosophy worn stone and azalea
scenes from the path of philosophy*
I should have been exhausted but when I caught the bus at the end of the day, I rode all the way back to the train station and descended into the huge underground mall, Porta, in search of the 300 yen store. There I bought two kinds of socks -- short bootie-style socks with penguins on them and sparkle socks with scenic Japanese carp and temples.

I know. Easily amused doesn't begin to describe it.

giant aqueduct at nanzenji
aqueduct at nanzenji
Saturday May 28

I woke up with a hunger for smaller birds, so I decided to check out Arishiyama, a suburb of Kyoto with many temples, shrines, and forests. As I strolled through a picnic area, I looked up and saw some old woodpecker boxes, and I may as well admit that the thought that passed through my mind was: As if. No sooner had the doubt entered my mind, then a boisterous flock of titmice came tumbling through the upper branches. I spotted my life Varied Tit as well as both adult and juvenile Long-Tailed Tits. I'm pretty sure there were some other tit species in there too, but you know how nothing happens and then suddenly everything happens at once? Because all of a sudden, a bird flew up on the trunk in front of me, and I was eye-to-eye with my life Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. A short while later, it was joined by (I'll presume) its mate, based on how closely they circled around the tree trunk together. I was charmed.

bamboo forest
bamboo forest at arishiyama
A bit further down the path, I found the giant bamboo forest. I mean these bamboo trees were like redwoods, ya'll. There was a spooky hush and dark where they grew the thickest.

Past a pond and along a field first of pink, then of golden, wildflowers, I drifted toward a small neglected weedy lot where the Oriental Greenfinch was hanging out.

pink flowers near pond yellow flowers
flowers of arishiyama area
Temples, shrines, wandering woodland paths, a town where I bought a Melon Cream Soda (it won't replace Barq's Red Cream and was more of a green honeydew melon-type flavor), a temple here, a statue there, a tortured red maple across the way. I heard the clatter of the wooden sticks in a graveyard and felt a cold chill run down my spine. But perhaps the oddest metaphysical experience came a short while later. I was photographing a manicured maple and a statue of a goddess, then turned to approach a temple when the air felt hard, like a force field or like glass-that-wasn't-quite-glass. I got a definite sensation that this temple wanted me to approach no further. Then I looked to the side and noticed the most un-Japanese sign ever: No photography. Ho-kay. I don't know what that particular spirit or temple has against this classic Japanese hobby, but I respected its wishes, not even stopping to photograph the "no photography" placard itself. After all, there were lots of other subjects, up to and including enthusiastic Japanese schoolgirls, who were more than happy to fill out my memory card.

rounded hills of azaleas at tenryuji in arishiyama
perhaps nowhere was the enduring influence of japanese gardening on american suburbia more explicit than on the grounds of tenryuji in arishiyama with its endless rolling hills of carefully clipped azaleas
While on the subject of weirdness, yeah, this is the day that I actually saw a Japanese gardener combing the moss. I swear.

rowboat at arishiyama
don't know about you but i always go out row-boating in my sunday best complete with coat and tie, even on a saturday
On a lonely trail I startled a huge banded snake that was longer than the path was wide since its tail was on one side while its head was already sliding off the other -- so four feet long? Six? After all, a motorized vehicle did actually drive down that path, but I noticed that the car in question was well scraped and dented on the sides. Call it five feet maybe.

At some point in my wanderings I turned a deep, dark heavily forested corner and found myself eye-to-eye with the shockingly contrasty yellow/orange and black Narcissus Flycatcher. Damned impressive. In a sunnier location, I was serenaded by the Siberian Meadow Bunting, who then picked up caterpillars with a couple of other specimens of this nifty species. At the top of a mountain peak, I sat and looked down on the river and enjoyed the spinning of a Black Kite far below. It was a perfect day.

a temple garden in arishiyama
a temple garden in arishiyama, there were a lot of them, ya'll, and i didn't catch all the names
Note: You have just read Part Two of my Kyoto trip report. Part Three is coming soon.

view at arishiyama
view of the river at arishiyama from a small hilltop

*don't bet the rent money on it or anything but this butterfly species might be Blue Triangle, Graphium sarpedon

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