#046: Quieting the Chaos of Kyoto’s Kinkaku-jiTak's dispatch released on 15 September 2015

Foggy Fiddleheads in Kyoto

The road, slick with a reflective sheen of rain, continues uphill. The light rain, steadily falling for most of your 45-minute walk, is beading up on your blue fleece jacket. Should you continue past the last house and see where this road continues? Are you, the obvious outsider, being watched by skeptical neighbors?

The asphalt—a bit past the last house and now enveloped by tree cover—trails off into a scrubby dirt road with grass rising wildly in the middle. Up around a bend you continue. A roving foggy, mist comes and goes, impairing visibility. The dirt road soon expires in lieu of a walking path. It grows narrower.

Tour Buses in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto’s attractions. You were optimistic that the drizzle would keep the numbers low. The parking lot is large, with those characteristic extra-long yellow paint stripes running across it. Despite the inclement weather, and much to your dismay, tour buses abound as you round the corner.

Perhaps the tour buses arrived on some sort of schedule but are empty. Perhaps the visitors are behind the tinted, mirrored window finish keeping dry. The wishful thoughts quickly flee. The main entranceway crawls with mobs of gawking tourists, both domestic and otherwise. Finding peace, nature or solace at this Buddhist Zen temple is going to be an art on an even higher level. The price of admission is too expensive, not to mention that it also costs money to enter.

You look at the map and see that there is a road that runs along the side of the temple property. There looks to be a dirt road that snakes up a short way. Perhaps you can enter through the back, traipsing past trees and flowers rather than broth-sipping tourists shooting photographs with tablet computers. Perhaps you don’t need to be bumped by—or duck under—countless umbrellas, held by clueless wanderers.

Road in Kyoto into Woods Path in Kyoto

The narrow trail, edged by lofty, rain-laden brush, appears to be a trail for collecting firewood or something similar. It seems there are staging points, clearings with dead grass and some stacks of wood. As forward progress continues, the path grows narrower. Your sneakers and pants are efficient sponges, drying the plants as you walk past.

Flowers in Bloom in Kyoto Spring Flowers, Kyoto

Purple flowers dot your periphery. Small green leaves peak from twigs. A minute transforms the scenery into an ever more purple saturation; you realize a three-dimensional wallpaper of flowers has encapsulated you. The light popping of raindrops dancing from the gray sky explode all about you, a percussive symphony as you stand silent.

Perhaps the fence running along the temple’s perimeter is to keep the tourists inside, to protect you from the chaos, allowing you great peace. The rain grows stronger and it doesn’t matter; yet it totally does. Without the rain, the flowers would not glisten. Large drops of water would not hang precariously from ferns. The aforementioned musical would cease, perhaps replaced by city noise in the distance.

You are on a much steeper slope from which, through gaps in the trees, you can observe Kyoto. While the mobs pack the major attractions—attractions built on the premise of peace and nature—you find yourself in the real temple with nary a soul around.

If they could only start getting tour buses up here…

Flowers & Moss, Kyoto, Japan Wet Sneakers in Kyoto
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