26 January 2009

japan, day eight

after some rest, it was time to head back out for my last day in kyoto to see the b-side temples.  not before a delicious brunch at the dorm accompanied by jimmy cliff.  have i mentioned how great japan is?
our first stop: Sanjusangen-do, Hall of the Lotus King.  before stopping inside, i had a quick drink and examined some hilarious anti-smoking signs.  gotta watch out for that neglect.

inside (again, no photographs allowed) were one thousand full-size statues of warriors, flanking a 20-foot tall buddha.  one thousand is a very impressive number.  there were also around two dozen stone statues of ancient japanese gods.  since 1164.  1164.  for those who are keeping score, the magna carta was 1215.

everyone at the temple was very kind as well.  we met a wonderful old couple who were delighted to see a couple americans off the beaten tourist path.  they had met while in college in wisconsin many years ago, they explained, and that we were lucky to visit kyoto in the winter, when the crowds were thin.

walking to the next temple, while crossing the street, a car full of kyoto-ans stopped to let me cross.  i gave them a smile and a quick bow.  their faces lit up and all four passengers gave me enthusiastic bows in reply, in unison.

have i mentioned how great japan is?

next we walked up the hill to Kiyomizu-dera.  kyoto is flanked on three sides by hills, this temple perched off one.  some sort of temple has been at this location since the 798, with the current structure dating back to 1644.

mostly, though, it had great views of the city below.

a small street on the way down the hill.

another temple, but at this one, you can see the main attraction without paying a single yen!

finally, we stopped at Nishi Honganji, which was perhaps the most modest, yet most legitimate, temple that we stopped at.  as we arrived, a dozen or so priests had arrived for a tour of the temple.  after a lot of walking, it was great to sit on the tatami floor and relax for a minute.  no cameras allowed, but that didn't stop this person.

another long walk in search of a greek restaurant, which we found after some time.  we hopped on a bus and made way for some car dealerships we had seen the day before, hoping to scope some metal and maybe grab some brochures in japanese.  which we did.  nerds.

finally, we hopped back on the bullet train to return to tokyo for our last few days in japan.  we arrived to discover that all the rooms in our old hostel were booked, for the next couple nights.  at long last, it was time to buckle down and experience that most japanese of experiences: the capsule hostel.

that's where i spent the night: a plastic box with a built-in TV.  i had prepared for some futuristic complex, gleaming, white, and brand-new.  instead, it was more like the future, as imagined in the 1970s.

it gets better.  anything goes inside the capsule hostel, especially smoking.  everywhere.  by everyone.  a pair of old japanese businessmen, who were loitering around our lockers, were absolutely delighted to see us.  which was a little strange.  we then made way upstairs to shower, only to discover that the showers were quite communal.  sat on upside-down buckets and hosed off like monkeys, then soaked in a cold bath with five other old japanese men.

it was pretty intense.

have i mentioned how great japan is?

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