|Well, it never goes as planned. I had laundry
problems this morning, so I left later than I expected (I've been
getting 8:00 starts recently; this one was after 10:00). So I
didn't get to Uji, which I hope to make up in the next day or two.
BUT I MADE IT TO KYOTO!!!!
Before I tell you any more, please read
To the College-Aged Girl at the Sanjo-Ohashi
You'll never know what you've done for me. It wasn't so much
the cash as the kindness.
You couldn't know this, but I had just walked from Tokyo to Kyoto
on the Old Tokaido. It took me a month and five days. Some
days I walked a little, some days a lot, and some not at all. I
walked in the city and the country, on empty Sunday morning sidewalks,
through busy train stations and deserted rice fields. I climbed
mountain passes and crossed rivers.
And after all this, I was having an easy day, just an hour or so's
stroll downhill to the goal.
But for the past hour, something had been bugging me. The
basic thought was: what's next? There will be no celebration at
the bridge, no news teams or friends to meet me. I'll just snap a
couple of photos--as I have so many times--and catch a bus toward
About 30 meters from the bridge, I had an extraordinary experience.
A group of about 30 grade school kids, with 3 or 4 teachers, was
coming toward me on the side walk. So I stood aside, as I
usually do, getting ready to smile and greet the kids as they
alternately freaked out, then smiled at me. The leading
teacher passed, and then the first two little boys behind him, with
big smiles on their faces--flipped me off! Gave me the
finger, blew me the bird.
Wow, I thought. Welcome to Kyoto. Is this my
celebration? I'm sure they didn't know what the impact was; the
other kids greeted me as usual. But it was a little surreal.
Then, as I reached the cross-street just before the bridge, you and
I waited together at the signal. After some not-uncommon brief
eye contact, we waited on, then crossed. As my foot hit the
bridge--literally, as I stepped onto my goal of 35 days--you said
"sumimasen," dug into your purse, and handed me a thousand
yen. With a quick request for a prayer, you turned and left as I
was still saying "arigatou."
You'll probably never see this. I had no time to give you a
card, or my name, or anything. I've heard that this sort of
thing happens on Shikoku, but this is Kyoto, a place so thick with
temples and religion that I would have thought the people here would
be a bit callous about all that. I've received tomatoes along
the way, and some monks gave me cash. But no one has just
walked up to me and handed me money and walked away!
I cannot express the depth of feeling I experienced then--several
hours ago--and am experiencing still. I prayed for you at Toji
today, and will continue to.
May you find peace.
May you achieve your dreams.
May the world become a place in which you and your children and their
children can live without fear of war.
Bless you. Bless you. Bless you.
Well, here it is. My last official shot, at the
Sanjo-Ohashi (Third Street Big Bridge), the entry to the old Imperial
Capital of Heian (Kyoto).
This will indeed be my last official shot. As the nature of the trip
changes, so will some elements of these pages. The "official
shot" concept simply no longer fits in with the material.
Watch for new features in days to come.
Hiroshige's Tokaido: Kyoto, the
End of the Old Tokaido
I guess the bridge was pretty busy in his day, too!
Ah, Toji. There's a Words and
Pictures page to see, but first I want to talk about this pagoda.
First, it's important because it's the "symbol of Kyoto,"
widely used in tourism ads. Originally built by Kobo Daishi in
826, it was recently remodeled--in 1644! At 57 meters, it's the tallest
pagoda in Japan. But who cares? It's stunning.
Second, I want you to know that--by a fluke--it's the first landmark
I ever saw in Kyoto. I had taken a night bus years ago, and I
couldn't get one that came directly into Kyoto. Instead, I got off
somewhere to the south--around 6 a.m.--and took a train up to the city.
At eye level, straight out the window, stood this unbelievable beauty.
I'll never forget how it looked in the early morning light. I've
seen it since in moonlight, night-lighting, sunset glow, and even lit up
by lightening, but the first time will always be the best.
Third: That first 6-day trip to Kyoto, I stayed at a place called
Toji-an, virtually in the shadow of this pagoda.
As for the rest of Toji, take a look at the Words
and Pictures page.
Now, about Kyoto: It would be silly of me to try to convey much about
that city to you. I have spent two dozen nights there and have
only scratched the surface. But--being the guy I am--I will give
you my "Top Sights" list in case you ever get to go there.
(But really, western Nara is better!)
Here they are, not in order:
Toji, of course
If you know Kyoto, your list will differ. Write and tell me
what you think. If you don't know Kyoto, even Words and
Pictures can't convey what you feel in these places, so that's all I'm
Well, that's it. Peculiar day, peculiar page. I took a train
directly from Toji to Nara, where I walked to the Youth Hostel.
Odd: I went to Kyoto, and never entered Kyoto Station! Many locals
would say "Good on ya" as they hate this modern behemoth.
I, however, love it. In a city that is furukusai--stinking
of age--it's kind of a relief to be inside a chrome and glass high rise.
Sorry I missed it this time.
One more item of vague interest: regular readers will know that my
system has been to stash my big bag someplace, walk, then go back and
get it later. Well, today I mailed some unnecessary items back to
my representative in Tokyo, and actually carried the bag the last little
leg of the trip. After all, I'll have to do so on Shikoku.
It was a bit hard on my ankles and knees, but it's doable. And it
saved a lot of time.
Tomorrow: The Big Buddha and western Nara--perhaps in the rain, as
things look now.