Thousands of Miles from Home


Kyo To

Into the old city of Kyoto! With my companions, host father, mother, sister, and boyfriend (not mine). Upon our trusty steed, a Chrysler Trailblazer (otherwise known as “the largest car I have seen in the past few months”), owned by my host sister’s boyfriend. Our first stop was Toji, modeled after Imperial Chinese architecture, sporting the tallest pagoda in all of Japan. The temple was founded by, you guessed it, Kobo Daishi (Kukai), and featured numerous wooden and gold carvings by the priest himself (I could not capture pictures of these treasures because the mere exposure of flash might cause the bone-dry figures to burst into flame).

Our next stop was “Movie Village,” where many old Samurai Dramas have been filmed over the years, including the wildly famous “Shinsengumi,” which is actually a remake of an older version of the program. Inside the village was the scariest, most over the top haunted house I have ever seen in Japan, perhaps rivaling higher-end Halloween Haunted Houses in America. There were more blood covered kimono-clad mannequins than you could shake a severed arm at. Throw in a few live actors to pop out from around corners with razor sharp kitanas you you’ve got yourself a recipe for peeing your pants in fear.

After some bowls of ramen at the Movie Village, and a live-action play featuring Benkei (my namesake), we blazed a trail (pause for laughter) to Fushimi Inari, famous for its 1000 Vermillion Torii. Vermillion, also referred to as “the red dye that reminds you of Japan,” is one of the oldest pigments to be used by man. The water at Inari is also known for its “soft characteristics,” which is why various famous kinds of sake are brewed in the area.

Fast forward through some shopping and dinner at a delectable restaurant, for what I am ashamed to say was my favorite part of Kyoto (which was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years); Kyoto Station (built a mere 8 years ago). I have traveled to many a train station, including Okayama, Osaka, Kobe, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Nagoya (which happens to be the largest train station in Japan, and previously my favorite), but Kyoto station was literally mind-blowing. There aren’t enough descriptive adjectives to do it justice.

It’s hard to tour any Japanese city properly in only one day, but I think I did an OK job for the time allotment. So here’s to Kyoto, and while we’re on the subject, the Kyoto Protocol! Huzzah!


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