I sometimes wake up in the morning and wonder for a minute in which city I am. It is the weirdest feeling.
I woke up in Kyoto this morning: the forecast predicted rain from 10 am, so I took my bike around 8 after a quick breakfast at the hostel and head up North to the Philosopher’s path. I have been way too absorbed yesterday by the temples visits, so I decided to save the path for my morning walk.
Oh Kyoto … getting lost in your tiny paved streets, finding my way in the maze that your old wooden houses have drawn over the centuries, crossing your bridges over quiet streams or magnificient river, cycling up your curvy hills, being dazzled by the smell of your flowers, losing track of time in your temples, finding faith in humanity in the smile and kindness of your people… I am not sure what happened to me over the last 48 hours, but one thing I know is that I have reached a all new level of peace and quiet.
2 hours after I stepped in the train in Tokyo, my sleepy face marvels at the Kyoto tower. A few blocks from the station, I find the tiniest bike rental shop: for less than a cappuccino in Paris I get 24 hours to ride my yellow bycicle. I know nothing about Kyoto, so I just cycle around; driven by my senses. I visited 3 temples that day; all three very different and very inspiring.
One funny thing about Japan is the scale of their maps. At the entrance of each temple or garden, they hand you a map: it looks huge, with lakes and waterfalls. It is not. It is tiny and adorable. Do not get me wrong, I do not mean it in a negative way. Japan just is adorable. It is the cutest place I have ever seen; everything is so cute it is driving me crazy. As I cycle or walk down the streets, I am constantly talking to things, animals or even people. I give them nicknames and say out loud in French »you are too small to be real ». This is what Japan does to me, I am losing it.
Of all places I have been so far – not only on this current trip I mean – Japan is the weirdest. Weird for it is so different from everything I have known or experienced. I have loved and appreciated every places, as holiday getaway or sweet escape. But Japan is different. It is appealing, it has gotten under my skin – I also got sunburned on my nose, should have listened to the app of my japanse phone warning me about strong UV …
So there I was, strolling from a temple to another; smelling the perfumes of the perfect gardens, listening to the mantras sung by the monks, walking bare feet and meditating facing the sun, bowing down to Buddha… The peace inspired by those places is bringing so much good energy in me, it is hard to put it into words.
Before the sun went down, I made it to a very special place: the golden temple. Away from everything, in the middle of a wild garden, standing proud and magnificient : a temple covered with gold. Unspoiled, a perfect green setting keeps safe a treasure I was not expecting. I usually am more of a nature enthusiast, and I have a hard time being moved by buildings. But this was something different. Magnanimous, magnetic, magic. All I have to say is, thank you.
I am getting a bit dizzy from the crazy rhythm of my japanese days. I have spent quite some time away from the city life over the last weeks, and I am getting easily tired of the city sounds and energy. I did not feel the rush till now, today or any other day since I landed in Tokyo; but I somehow feel tired. As soon as I was cycling back to the city center, I found myself in busy streets where traffic lights and tailpipe replaced the magic atmosphere of the temples garden. I have always lived in the city, so it should not be too much of a chock for me; yet I have a hard time dealing with all the surroundings »demands ». I get tired and stupid when I cannot think clearly – this is what the city does to me. And I guess this is just what I needed to take a break from – the unrealistic demand of a city; which without regards of its location will always alienate the best in me and turn myself into an impatient and arrogant monster.
Far away from the city lights and constant whispers, I enter a place which looks more like a living room than a restaurant. Following the recommendation of Thomas – who once was a god to me – I find myself in the most local and typical restaurant once could dream of. They serve ramen, made with soy milk. Creamy, dreamy, fresh and spicy ; the perfect balance has been created under this very roof. Bare feet, sitting on the floor, loudly drinking my soup; I am feeling at home. Naturally, I order the only desert on the menu, a soy based cheesecake. I could have had the all cake, it is ridicuously tasty and I want this feeling to last forever.
Eventually, I get my happy belly and feet to bed and we slept like we were dead.
The philosopher’s path was the best way to wake up and open my mind to this new day. I haven’t spend any minute of today in a dry state, and I did not really mind. I am a happy idiot.
I cycled up to the trail, walked around, enjoyed the quiet environnement in this new day … all of it in a light and refreshing rain. I got lost looking for the station, found the zoo and loved walking down the river; in an intensfying rain. Soaking wet, I took the train to Nara where a pouring rain welcomed me. When I got my umbrella for free, I should have guessed already that there was something unique about this place.
Nara is magic. If there is one place you want to visit in your life, it is Nara. The park is the house of magnificient temples, but more importantly it is populated by deer. Deer, walking freely, crossing zebras, getting around and biting your food away. Deer, fawns and birds: Nara is basically the place that inspired Bambi. Nested in a cosy temple, the biggest Buddha is to be found in this very park. I am not familiar enough with buddhism, I have to study more. I just find fascinating how respectful people are, of the place but also of each other. Crowded, the place is not chaotic. People kindly wait to take pictures, and apologize if they happen to come too close to your picture zone, or even comfort zone. Wishes and prayers, written on wood or fabrics, are held all around the temples. Time pauses, and something new is floating in the atmosphere. Something new to me. I cannot quite yet put a finger on it, and for now I just appreciate feeling this way.
Also, I might become famous in a few local schools in the coming days. I have been interviewed by 4 different group of students; about the purpose of my visit, my country of origin and my favorite sport. We took pictures together and I felt like Beyonce for a minute. I almost cried when I got a frog in origami as a thank you gift from the youngest of all students, who was too cute to be true.
I am now back in Tokyo and I do not know where the time went. As I was walking out of the station, I found myself next to a shy japanese teenager who was introducing the city to a girl just as old as him. He clearly was a bit embarassed and just said »so, this is Tokyo ». The girl and I looked at each other and could not help ourselves but to laugh.
Yes… This is Tokyo. I have been talking about it for so long, and now here I am, almost leaving… till next time treasure, till next time …