Today we said farewell to the Oe grandparents who could not have been betters hosts. It was so nice to stay with them and they were so very accepting, at times it felt a little like home.
Despite the many times I visited Kyoto when I studied in Japan, I never visited some of the more famous temples like Kinkakuji (Temple of Gold), though I visited the most famous KyouMizou numerous times. Temples are part of what reminds the Japanese of their rich cultural history, something that we simply do not have in America. So notorious is Kyoto’s cultural importance that it was left virtually untouched in World War II while Japan’s other cities were attacked with vigor by the allies.
An added bonus, if you can call it that, is that we decided not to take the trains, but rather drive. Let me tell you, I have faced down New York and would have no problem driving wherever, long as I have the patience. In Japan, there is hardly any traffic but its very windy and the entire system is elevated due to the rail system being built before the highway.
The first stop on our tour was Ginjakuji which is known for its silver roof. When I say silver roof, I mean the roof is painted with a silver color coat, it is real silver. Ginkakuji was built by the great grandson of the builder of Kinkakuji. At the time, building a gold temple was not something the prince could afford, so he built a silver one in the image of Kinkakuji.
As with many temples, it sits within a beautiful Zen garden and is set in the mountains and provides a spectacular view of modern Kyoto for those brave enough to climb.
It is cast in solid gold and is set within a beautiful zen garden whose pond is known as the Pond of Reflection and perfectly casts the reflection of the temple onto the water.
Being in this place is totally relaxing and inspiring all the same. To think that someone thousands of years could conceive of something so amazing. Japan is filled with wonders such as this, Kyoto in particular.
The final stop on our tour was an old friend of mine: KyouMizou temple. One of the most famous and inspiring temples in the world. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was night time and taking good pictures became difficult; nevertheless the temples beauty came through.
Legend has it that in the old days people would jump off this temple if they wanted courage. If they survived the fall (and I wonder how many did) they would have the courage to carry out there task. These days the sheer size of the temple and the supports for it within the mountain are simply insane. The approach to the temple is near Gojo-dori and lined with small shops that sell some pretty neat stuff. Gojo-dori is also my personal favorite shopping area within Kyoto; it was unfortunate that my attempt to visit it after Arashiyama failed.
We were pretty much beat after all of this and so we headed back to Hikone. Along the way we stopped and I bought the whole family dinner at a nice restaurant as a gesture of thanks for putting up with me for the last 5 days.
In all honesty, if you get a chance to visit Japan try to stay with Japanese friends it will really open your eyes about the similarities and differences between Japan and America in terms of lifestyle and child rearing. This last week and a half I have not slept on a traditional bed, but have taken the floor with a futon. Its been an amazing experience and Kansai was just memorable. I am kind of depressed about leaving tomorrow, but I have no doubt that the memories I will create in Tokyo will be the best yet, as hard as that is admittingly.