January 19, 2011

2 days in Kyoto

 my favorite picture from Kyoto

Andy and I went to Kyoto from Nagoya October 21 - 22nd 2010 to see the sights and check out the famed 時代祭り - Jidai Matsuri [Festival of Ages] at the Heian Shrine.   We even planned to take a trip up to Kurama for the Fire Festival, but none of these things worked out and we spent the whole time walking around Kyoto Station and our ryokan.  No problem though - we had a great time anyway.

a family shrine

Mt. Fuji from the Bullet Train window

People/guidebooks/family - everyone told us how magical, wonderful and mystical Kyoto was.  The temples, the shrines, the gardens, the museums, the atmosphere - all my research put Kyoto on an almost unattainable pedestal of wonderment.  I expected Kyoto to knock our socks off the second we stepped off the train and be transported into a different world.

That's not really fair to demand that of any place.  I wish I could say we had this experience.  We didn't.


Kyoto is very warm.  Kyoto is full of obnoxious tourists and disaffected ex-pats.  Kyoto is home to many hard working people who don't have time for your cute Japanese conversations/questions.  Kyoto is magical and mystical and wonderful, so just two days and one night is not enough time to discover that.

We walked from Kikokuso to Sanjusangendo - a beautiful temple just over the Kamogawa.  All the tourists went the other way and we found ourselves walking inside an endless line of hundreds of middle school girls going to school.  They trudged along in the heat, what seemed like miles, all the storefronts dirty and broken, potted plants drying out and smokey old men with smokey old jackets.

It's real life.  Not the slick, Tokyo world we were immersed in just a day before.

★ But we can have expectations of anything - and when we are disappointed, we can do two things:
1. Get sad / blame the place
2. Never you mind and deal

The worst vacations  have been to Washington DC and Chicago - but I'll never think the places were bad.  Things just didn't go so well, but they'll go better next time!
We'll go back to Kyoto someday (and DC and Chicago) and try again

Osamu Tezuka museum in Kyoto Station

Kyoto is a magical place, and I know the next time we visit we'll discover even more.


  1. Oh man, this is a great post!

    Sorry to do this, but I'm going to step on my soap box here:

    It's can be really frustrating when people give Japan (or any place, but especially Japan because I live here) this image of being a magical happy land of rainbows, love and acceptance. What you said sums it up better than I -ever- could. This is just real life!

    It is a great country with lots of great things to offer; but Japan still has its share of problems (and trust me, they are a lot). People generally -aren't- accepting of foreigners or people they think are weird, and there are so many people dissatisfied with their life. Despite my best efforts, I've felt a lonliness and alienation here I don't think I could ever fully describe in words. But as you said, there are two things one can do: (1)Get upset and hate the country; (2)Love the things you love, and brush the dirt thrown at you off your shoulder. Prove to people that not all foreigners are bumbling idiots, or try and add some joy to your friends life.

    I love my life here, I just wish people would stop and smell the reality sometime. And of course this is just my experience, I'm sure some would disagree....

    /end of rant.

    Anyway, I can't wait until I can explore Kyoto sometime! Years of art history have me wringing my hands in excitement!

  2. Anonymous19.1.11

    from Julie

    These photographs of Japan are a wonderful window into another culture. The pictures of three women dressed in traditional clothing at the shopping mall fascinated me the most.

  3. Thanks guys!

    Dorothy, thank you for your insight!
    It's better but harder to live in reality, isn't it?

  4. nice, r these digital or are you holga-ing?

  5. Beautiful shots of Kyoto!
    Yeah, sometimes holidays don't turn out the way that you planned - but you know, you're right, just suck it up, have a spoonful of cement and get down to it - focus on the positives and have yourself some fun!


  6. I feel like you really have to live at these new places for a while to really get to know it well and to discover the hidden treasures for yourself. Unfortunately, most of us are limited by time and money so we can only stay for so long. And I also feel that I've been spoiled rotten by the beautiful photography online and the photoshopping and the special effects that when I see things live, I'm not as stunned as I should be.

  7. I had a little time in Chicago and my first impression upon landing was the poopoo brown smog that hung over the city :[ I had a pretty good experience of Kyoto, I went my a girl friend and we just drank, walked around, and people watched, it was a lot of fun.

  8. Thanks guys!

    Thao - yea, the next time will be a long ways off for sure but will be worth it

    Lindsey - Yeah I know you had a great time from your blog! I really want to see Kinkakuji, too!

  9. I'm glad you share a realistic view of Japan. After living here a few months, I've experienced some good and bad things. You really experience the positive and negatives to truly appreciate something.

  10. Anonymous25.1.11


    I found your blog via the links on Blood Like Milk. I like a lot of these pictures you've posted & really love your portfolio! I've just moved to Los Angeles in September, but I think I'll definitely try to visit your work in person at Gallery 1988!