It was the last day in Kyoto and we weren’t going to waste it. When I say last day I also mean a measly 5 hours as we had to catch the shikansen back into Tokyo in the early afternoon. This meant that Joe and I had to make the most of the time we had left, and that we did. After waking up and checking out of the 9h capsule hotel, we took a brief stop at a MOS burger for breakfast and started making our way to Kiyomizu -Dera. After trying to hike our way up toward the temple, Joe and I realized that the incline was far too steep and exhausting for us as we were carrying 20kg of gear. We paused briefly and decided to take a bus the rest of the way (best decision all day).
Elevator at the 9h Capsule Hotel in Kyoto
The grounds were busy with school children and their teachers. I’m not sure if it was the season for the locals to visit or if it’s just that busy everyday but it was one of the most crowded locations we had visited. Additionally the veranda and main hall were then being renovated which limited the amount of photo locations I was going to be happy with. Ignoring my hobby, the temple itself is beautiful and a masterpiece of Japanese ingenuity and wood work.
Locals praying in the main hall
Joe and I didn’t particularly like being around the large crowds so we ventured off into the then leafless forest that surrounds the main hall and explored a bit. My favourite shot of the day was of this small shrine. It was just tucked away from everything and looked undisturbed.
Small shrine at Kiyomizu Dera
Then the “reality wall” hit, and it hit hard. Once we left the temple we’d be officially done with our tourist activities. The rest of the journey would be happening on trains and planes, and would be far less exciting than wandering around local streets. From what I remember I was conflicted because on one hand I was excited to go home and see my family, while on the other I never wanted to give up on the perpetual adventure. Travel can be addictive, it’s the constant motion forward, the exciting unknown. I hope more adventures are to come, but who knows cause the world is an ever-changing place and life has a way of making barriers. As a Canadian I hold a very special ability and privilege to visit the majority of the world without much cause for concern. It’s been 6 years since I was in Japan and I have had other adventures since then, but none have been as influential.
What do you do when you only have a few days left in Japan but have only set as side a small amount of cash to gifts…you go to Nara! It’s a tourist friendly town, and is only a short train ride away from Tenri. I liked Nara a lot, and could have spent more time there purely to explore the city, and of course check out more of the smaller temples and shrines that are sprinkled around the city. With a population of less than 400,000, Nara is also a “slower” city in comparison to Tokyo or Kyoto which matches my personality quite well.
After picking up a small bag of goodies for the parents and friends back home, Joe and I found our way back to Tenri (after a bit of translation woes.) We practice packed and took the evening to relax and reflect on the trip. The following day would be our last full day in Tenri and the haunting realisation that our trip was coming to an end hit full force.
If you ever get a chance to deviate from the bigger cities I would highly recommend going to Nara even as a day trip. You won’t regret it.
A fortunate element of my time in Japan was the opportunity to exercise the ability to just do nothing. Honestly it is something I always try to do when I travel now and that’s to just exist in a place and not do anything. Yes, I acknowledge that it can be a waste of money and time to go somewhere far away and sit around and do nothing, but to me it’s acknowledging that being on an adventure also means just taking a break. Taking a mid day nap is not something I can do back home while I’m working and being able to do that while on vacation is a luxury.
Finally, Calpis you will forever be a very strange drink. I do not understand you.
Some days are actual roller coasters. It all starts at the top of a sky scraper, then you plummet down to reality where time flows as it wishes and the clouds look so much further away. Your feet meet the ground and your bank account suddenly has limits and your ability to forget about the common problems comes rushing back like the Japanese humidity. It’s an inevitable reality for someone who was just out of school and traveling on a budget. However even today as someone who has been working for 6 years, I look back on the Park Hyatt experience as unique and burnt into my memory. The elevator rides, the sound of fine dinning, the smell of the pool, and most definitely the view. All these memories are complied into a single entity. A single feeling. A gift to myself.
Final look out of Park Hyatt Building
Not everything in a “commoners” life is bland or insignificant though, it really just depends on how you manage your perspective and the company you keep. The family that welcomed us to Tokyo the first time round had yet again offered to shelter us for 2 additional nights. I was beyond myself when they welcomed us back and how much they were willing to go out of their way to take care of us. I’d imagine it would be a hard sell to take in 3 relative strangers into ones home and offer them such hospitality. At the core of their structure I could tell kindness as a key element. It was evident by the way I could hear them speak to one another through the walls and how they interacted from afar. Yes people tend to put the best versions of themselves forward in the presence of visitors but sometimes you just know.