Japan 2.0: Kyoto-des

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Up early, walk to JR Train: Osaka to Kyoto via Express Line. Cityline Bus around to the middle of Kyoto suburbia. Express Line is faster as it seems to skip 2 stops out of 3. A Rapid, in comparison, skips 1 out of 3. A local stops at every stop. The nuance between Rapid and Express means the difference of 30 minutes between Osaka and Kyoto.

Rushing through the country-side between Osaka and Kyoto, it is easy to miss the actual country part. Yes, the mountains are all very verdant and green – the farms can be seen in the triangles between houses. Farming is squeezed into the left overs of suburbia. All the spare space in Japan is used. Rice paddies, soccer fields on the flood plains of rivers; vertical car parks. All the space is wisely used.

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Imagine a modern city, wrapped around large plots of land conveniently containing shines, temples and gardens. Gone is the deep green of the countryside: here it is orange. Lots of Orange. It is a shame that digital cameras miss the deep oranges and purples. There is lots of orange in Kyoto.

The bus system is perfect for Kyoto’s sprawl. Only Y500 for a day pass is excellent value. The JR trip from Kyoto to Osaka was Y540, one way. This is a mere AU$10 for a day’s worth of travel, each. Enter from the rear, and exit (after paying) from the front. A smart system that ensures an efficient flow of people through the bus, onto the street and into the money making temples. For the JR, we re-charged our Suica (stored value) cards from our last trip in 2005.

Japan, whilst exhibits many features of the future; cashless is not one of them in small stores and restaurants. Thankfully, the JR trains use these new stored value cards and the places where you can get money from your accounts seems to be greater.

Every temple/shine I’ve seen is surrounded by mechanisms for taking money from the attendee. Whether for long life, good marriage, for ancestors — the temples/shrines take your money in multiplicity of forms. At least this investment results in some of the world’s best vistas, and the raw earth and nature calming suburbian nerves.

Our first shine/temple/garden/shopping trap was the Kiyomizu (largest) etched into the mountainside of Kyoto. We had Meiho, Yuka and Shiho escort us (for free!) around this large temple. They were using the experience to learn English.

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Picture: some fat bastard looking for Charlotte.

In Lost in Translation, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) calls her mum still in the US and says “she went to a temple, and didn’t feel anything” I can understand why. Whilst the temples and shines are meant to evoke spiritual feeling; the sheer number of people and the shopping stalls dampen the spiritual feeling somewhat. A calmness does decend on you in the gardens. Sitting and watching the Koi (think: carp) and turtles fight it out for illicit scraps of food thrown down into the water.

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The second was the Heian. The gardens here are brilliant. I think there is a scene from Lost in Translation (Charlotte crossing the pond) shot in this garden. The garden is situation around a stark white and orange courtyard temple thing. Venturing through the portal into the garden, you see a cooler, calmer world where the sounds of Kyoto traffic disappears.

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The JR train returning to Osaka we passed Suntory Whisky distillery. Just like Lost in Translation.

Dinner at a random place with some random Japanese food. “setto menu”. Buying food late in the day from the department store resulted in discounts; although it was still a little expensive.

Tired legs, broken feet. Tomorrow is another day.

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