Did Kitaro walk or run?

Tetsugaku-no-michi translates as the path of philosophy and is a popular place for meandering, lost in contemplative thought. The path takes about a half hour to walk each way. As this tree-lined canal is traffic-free and located a few minutes from our guesthouse, we found it to be an ideal place for an early morning run.



The sand gardens at Ginkaku-ji are amazing. They are groomed daily as part of the monks' working meditation ritual, and can only be considered to be perfectly done if the monks can see their own reflections on the surface.



We had it on fine authority (Mark and Christine) that Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion, is breathtaking. They were not wrong. The buildings, originally constructed in 1482 as a summer retreat for shogun Yoshimasa, now belong to one of the sects of the Rinzai Zen school. This former villa and its surrounding gardens are favourite subjects of Japanese painters and poets. We arrived early to beat the daily horde, and ended up with the place almost to ourselves.



While the penguins captured Deanna's imagination, I felt a special bond with Sam, two tons of pachyderm born in the same month and year as me.


Black tie

Other Asian animal parks we have seen, in China and Taiwan, have not quite lived up to the facilities and standards we are used to in zoos of the occident. The Kyoto Zoo however, another unplanned destination, proved to be a pleasant afternoon excursion. It seems that it is not only the Japanese public who have a penchant for penguins, as Deanna broke into her passable Morgan Freeman voiceover to regale me with more feathery facts than I could digest.


Accidental tourists

Deanna and I had wanted to visit Kyoto for a very long time. We spent great amounts of time researching the trip, and promised ourselves that we would be very active tourists (fighting against the urge to settle into a comfortable inn or a cozy guesthouse and read, which we could do just as well at home). We knew in advance of our arrival of the great range of temples, parks, gardens, and mountains we hoped to visit. It is funny now that one of the most memorable places for us was one that does not appear in any guide books or on any internet must-see lists, an area we stumbled into by dint of incidental wandering. This graveyard near our guesthouse was solemn, serene, and beautiful.



We had been nervously discussing our earthquake contingency protocols on the short flight from Seoul to Osaka, aware at that eleventh hour that we in fact had no earthquake contingency protocols. Fortunately, the fine folk at Kyoto City Hall had been busy in anticipation of our arrival putting our fears to rest in four languages.


The Red Carpet

Everybody who visits Kyoto heads to Gion in hopes of seeing geisha. The narrow streets and curtained entryways make the district feel secretive and romantic - a perfect stalking ground for what came next.
We came around a corner to see this geisha walking down the street, and no fewer than a hundred people gathered around to take her photo. She looked down demurely, but made a hasty exit into a restaurant, where the proprietor called a car to pick her up and whisk her away from us gawkers.
The very next day we happened upon these maiko (apprentice geisha), who were as demure but slightly less reticent about the shutterbugs.


Happy New Year

We've got our game faces on. Though we originally intended to take a blogging break until the solar new year, our hiatus lasted almost until the lunar new year. But we're back, in a new apartment, in a new neighbourhood, with a new hard drive in our (unbeknownst to us) virus-ridden computer. We plan to bore you with some of the 400-odd photos we took in Kyoto in December, so if you've no interest in temples, gardens, or pagodas, best tune out until mid-June. And for all the OOFALWO readers who resolved in the New Year to post voluminous comments about our ramblings, the time is now.