The world is, just as I am, starting to realise the magnitude of the quake (it being the most powerful in the country ever). The news channel hasn’t stopped showing the repetitive but addictive images of devastation, and my eyes are glued to it the same way we can’t stop watching an approaching train-wreck.
Galvanised into action early in the morning soon after reading that a potential nuclear crisis looms where the Fukushima plant might be having a radiation leak, I called the airline and changed my flight, re-routed it via Osaka Kansai and pushing it back a day earlier. What is supposed to be my penultimate day in Japan today now means it’s my last day in Kyoto and honestly, I could think of worse things happening.
In the aftermath of the quake, Kyoto on a sunday morning, sails serenely onwards; many people duck in and out of flea markets, ladies dressed in their kimonos tottering off for a weekend brunch surely and other gallivanting couples dressed to the nines heading out to the heavy shopping stretch in Shijo. Many things remain unchanged – I’ve learnt to treasure my time in Japanese toilets which are so lovingly crafted to pamper the bum, the food’s got quite a bit going for it, and the crowded trains run so unfailingly.
In an attempt to regain a sense of normalcy, I visited the impressive Kinkaku-ji, golden-topped retirement villa for a Shogun whose beauty was marred by the loud chatter of tourists doing the same circular route around it as I was. Next in line was a 20 min walk southwest to Ryoanji temple (2 things north of Kyoto that should not be missed according to guides), essentially to see the zen garden of gardens, small clusters of rocks placed to arouse the imagination.
A seminal piece of work as it is, I took a first glance at the pile and then gazed at the people who sat down contemplating its meaning, and tried not to laugh. It made no sense even as I tilted my head several ways, or stared hard at it for a few more seconds than it deserved, as shallow as this would sound.
I think this will be my last post for this stay; hit by a strange sense of finality on the last night, I took to the streets in search of dinner in the evening that has turned fabulously cool now fit for indulgence, passing through the wonderfully bohemian feel of Sanjo-dori (it has a tin-tin shop in Japanese!) that eventually empties out onto onto the main shopping vein Shijo-dori. In the spring-air, Kyoto by night came to life.