Monday, June 28, 2010
After putting it off for years, I finally decided that the time was 'right' to go to Kyoto. Having lived in Japan for years now, people were always astounded to find I had never been there, as if not going were akin to not having visited Japan at all. And I think on some level that is exactly the ideal I had reserved for Kyoto: the dream Japan of mysterious gardens, mystic temples, floating-world alleys bordering geisha-filled teahouses; the concentrated center of everything that makes Japan "Japan." And in that sense, I have always held a romanticized dream of 'saving myself' for Kyoto until the perfect time. In the end, I realized I'm far too sentimental and decided ''F**k it. Let's just go.'
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 800 years and the cultural center for more than 1200. And while the capital has moved, Kyoto still retains that status: as the space age Kyoto Station surrounded by World Heritage historical sites will attest to, it remains a city of concentrated culture enough to fire any Japanophile's wet dream. 1600 temples, 400 shrines, a samurai castle, an imperial palace, beautiful gardens and kabuki house, high-class restaurants down historic alley-ways, bamboo forests, bustling modern streets lined with office buildings--you could almost say a person never need go anywhere else to get the full experience of Japan (but then maybe I'm not being fair to all the other places I've lived).
In a day and a half, I know I saw only a fraction of everything the city has to offer. But it was enough to rekindle my love affair with this country and keep alive all those (fantastic, imaginary) idealized, Romantic feelings that had begun to fade (as they should). Kyoto felt like a city of dreams, and for a dreamer like me, it was everything I'd always wanted.