Japan Trip 2010–Day 9


We again were looking forward to a day off from the rigors of the tour as it embarked on an optional trip to Nara, the destination we had planned to visit on our own a week later.  The intention was to find a subtemple of Nanzenji suggested by our guidebook, a stroll in the woods away from crowds where we could meditate and absorb some of the beauties of Kyoto at our own pace.

We walked to the bus stop down the main boulevard near our hotel,  surprised at the hush despite the volume of traffic, dodging bicycles that sped along the sidewalk.


We got off at a stop near the eastern mountains, north of Kiyumizo Dera and sauntered through a neighborhood of elegant houses and gardens graced by a little plant shop and a footpath along a canal routing the everpresent flowing water through the city.



At the massive gate to Nanzenji we met up with the Sunday crowd, including quiet sketchers and noisy kids.



Attempting unsuccessfully to follow the map, we hiked a mile in the wrong direction along a lovely wooded aqueduct and ended up at a city waterworks that served as a picnic ground for locals.


Back at the Temple we abandoned the search for seclusion in favor of lunch, which we found just outside the gate at a tiny noodle shop  run by two elderly ladies who stumbled among the shoeless feet of packed patrons to bring us our soup.

Revived by the repast, we set out for the “Philosopher’s Walk,” a famous attraction recommended by Maya.  This footpath straddling both banks of a stone canal running along the base of the mountains, was bordered with cherry trees in full bloom, forsythia, japonica, azalea and rhododendron.


Every quarter mile another path led up into the forest to a temple, but despite the press of people, the way was so charming we decided to follow it to its terminus at the Temple of the Silver Pavilion.


As we approached, however charm was eclipsed by rank commerce and raucus public. Swept into line, we paid the substantial entrance fee and shuffled by mysterious piles of raked sand for which the place is well known.


As we wound up the steep manicured hillside, Jan had a grief-tinged memory of being here 30 years earlier with her mother, who made jokes in English that somehow had elicited delight from the gardeners.


Even outside the fence separating the temple grounds from the mountain above, I noticed that the ground had been raked clean.


The weather again turning dark, we dragged ourselves to a bus stop, waited 25 minutes in the cold and then capitulated into hailing a cab to return us to the hotel, where we took comfort from hamburgers served in the snack bar.

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