We left Miyajima for Hiroshima for Kyoto as the sludgy rain turned to afternoon sunshine.
Due to the dregs of a typhoon that had been swirling over the country and that had flooded parts of the train tracks, as well as an earthquake, the trains were hours delayed.
My feelings on That can adequately be summed by my expression here:
But we finally made it to Kyoto, where I proceeded to have a 24 hour temper tantrum. Things just were not going my way. And I crashed. The next morning at breakfast, I went on a loud, screamy, screachy, American-From-Manhattan ranting diatribe at the table, which Paul gritted his teeth and sat through (later confessing that he had to talk himself down from dragging me away from the table like a parent diffusing a toddler).
Then, and only then, were we free to see Kyoto.
Our first day in Kyoto, my tantrum aside, was beyond lovely, and our guide was knowledgeable, and perfect.
We saw the shrines:
And the shogun’s palace and the Golden Temple:
And then we stuffed our faces with noodles before racing off to see the kimono fashion show (which Paul kept calling kiMINos instead of kiMOnos, which I found hilarious). The kimono show was delightfully tourist trappy, and I was the blondest person there, and Paul was the tallest person there, so we also became a sort of weird side-show. While I was completely entranced by the fashions, Paul noticed some of the onlookers snapping photos of us!
We finished out the day with a stroll through the food market and a visit to the Zen Buddhist temple.
The next day, we were mostly left to our own devices, save for attending a tea ceremony and learning about tea. I love tea.
The whole thing was generally fascinating, and at the end, they dressed me up in a kimono, as they were making it.
(I’m sure that this is yet another tourist trappy thing to do, but it was good fun for me.)
While we were on our own, we went to the shrine next to our hotel, which had statues of 1,000 Buddhas, and then I dragged Paul to Takashimaya (think of it like the Japanese Bloomingdale’s). I had forgotten that they used to have a New York location (and never disclosed this to him). But we wandered around the food hall, and ate at one of the lunch counters, and generally enjoyed our day together.
Also, I bought a pair of CW-X running tights that I knew I would never be able to get in the States. If you have ever noticed the funny-looking running tights that I wear to races, they’re made by a Japanese company. A day-date in Kyoto was good fun, but star-spangled, polka-dotted CW-X tights made THE ENTIRE TRIP WORTH IT.
In reality, I am not doing our days in Kyoto justice. I am not adequately capturing the landscape, or the cultural significance of the things we saw, or even fully expressing how much we enjoyed getting lost in the markets and department stores. I can’t really find the right words to say what it was like to see the maiko, or apprentice geisha, on the street, or to be in the presence of thousand-plus-year-old art. And I don’t have any photos of us ducking into an arcade and playing games for waaaay longer than intended — with Paul intending to instantly beat me on a motorcycle-riding game and me surprising the hell out of him with my game-playing prowess.
All in all, Kyoto was an experience. We enjoyed it fully, and maybe each for different reasons. We also enjoyed it together. The first couple of days of our trip, we’d been trying to hit our stride — figuring out this, and that, and the other thing — and by Kyoto, we were finally in sync (after my freak-out, of course).
The point, maybe, is this: Not long ago, I thought that I knew everything because I had Done it All Before. But how silly of me! How arrogant, and ignorant, and…immature! I honestly thought that because I had been married once, and because I’d travelled the world with the man to whom I was once married, I knew what I was doing.
I thought I knew what I was doing because I had learned a lot over the course of five years. What I learned as I was travelling through the shrines and monasteries in China in 2008 as I was getting ready to wind down my marriage was that I didn’t know shit about marriage, but I thought I knew so much about myself.
However, what I accepted as I travelled through Japan in 2013 was that I maybe I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought. What Japan was teaching me was that maybe all the knowledge in the world was no substitute for an open heart and an open mind.