A Moment In Kyoto35.0116° N, 135.7680° E
"According to Japanese history, the home of the Emperor was considered to be the capital and from the 8th century to the mid 19th century, the Emperor lived in Kyoto"
We took a break from the metropolis of Tokyo and headed to Japan’s former capital city, Kyoto. According to Japanese history, the home of the Emperor was considered to be the capital and from the 8th century to the mid 19th century, the Emperor lived in Kyoto. This changed when the seat of the government and the location of the Emperor’s home was moved to Tokyo around the end of the 19th century.
To get to Kyoto we used the Shinkansen, also known as the “Bullet Train.” It is a network of high-speed railway lines that span across Japan. The trains are capable of traveling speeds up to 320 km/h, reducing traveling time from city to city across the archipelago. Our trip to Kyoto took approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Our first stop was the Sagano bamboo forest in the Arashiyama district of western Kyoto. The forest is wonderfully green and the bamboo casts tall shadows along the path. We found an opening between the barriers and crossed into the forest to stand among the trees. Inside we heard the eerie creaking of the bamboo against the wind and the rustling of the leaves that touch the sky.
One should always take moment and listen to what the bamboo trees are saying.
Along the path we took a detour to visit the Tenryū-ji Temple (Temple of the Heavenly Dragon), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple was built in 1339 to mourn the passing of Emperor Go-Daigo. Now it is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.
The grounds are home to a beautiful Zen garden and pond with the mountains of Arashiyama serving as the perfect backdrop. Most of the current halls, including the main hall (Hojo), drawing hall (Shoin) and temple kitchen (Kuri), date back from the relatively recent Meiji Period (1868-1912).
We continued our journey through the forest and into the small streets of Arashiyama. The stone cobble streets led us to Otago Nenbutsu-ji, another temple that is tucked away in the hills of the district. Unlike the Tenryū-ji Temple, which is busy and quite loud, the atmosphere was quiet and serene.
Twelve thousand stone sculptures of Rakan, the Buddha’s disciples, populate the grounds. Their jovial and humorous facial expressions gave off a positive energy to the ancient complex. As we walked through the small shrines and the large pagoda, we were overwhelmed with the feeling peace and serenity.
Words & Photography: Jon Carlo Tapia