On our first day in Japan, the BFF & I reached Kansai air-port and took a train from Osaka to Kyoto. Mang, my dear Singaporean friend who’s now based there, was already waiting for us at the station with a big smile and warm welcome hug. We then drove to our apartment located in Gion – My flat was on the top floor and Mang had the unit directly below 🙂
The direct flight on the plane was good, and being the incurable insomniac I am, I didn’t sleep much… which was a good thing really, because I felt really blessed when I looked out of my window and witnessed the most amazing night ever.
It was almost like that surreal scene in my favorite Vincent Van Gogh painting, Starry Night. Our SQ plane was flying high above the night clouds and the stars were shining magnificently, with the moon glowing spectacularly. It was such a beautiful moment, I had to wake the sleeping BFF next to me and she gasped at the magical scene before us.
“It’s like we’re in space,” Pam dreamily murmured as we sat in silent awe, appreciating the splendid beauty before us. Truly, I felt humbled by the beauty of moment. It’s something you’d never be able to capture on film, you just had to soak in the moment.
The BFF went back to sleep but I kept gazing out of my window, and witnessed the most amazing sunrise over the mountains. The slopes were like those in a classic painting, hues of blue and different shades of colors… and the warm rays of the sun co-existed with the radiance of the beautiful moon. There they were, together, sun with moon.
It was like gradual poetry, story telling in slow motion, every moment a precious gift.
I felt touched by the immense beauty before me, it was truly, truly amazing. I felt so lucky… to be alive, to be able to witness all these spectacular things, to forever be able to smile and remember the serenity it touched me with.
Anyway, on the first day of arrival, we brought the rain with us *wry grin* So yes, not only was it cold because it’s still Wintry, it was wet! However, we still ventured out toward Yasaka Shrine & Kiyomizu Temple with a brolly each, walking there since our apartment block was just less than 5 minutes away!
I love the interesting juxtaposition of the new and old in Kyoto… buildings, shops, people, what they wear, the traditional Geishas and Maikos, and the Zen Buddhist monks… it all adds color to the city’s incredible rich tapestry.
While there’s a certain charm to it when it rained, I couldn’t take much photos, so I simply soaked it up fully. Haha, sorry about the pun. Still, here’s a couple of random photos from Day 1 🙂
It was a splendid afternoon, and the three of us ducked into different shops for shelter and refuge from the rain and cold, besides for just plain ole retail therapy *grin*
Some of the sights reminded me of visual scenes from one of my favorite poetry books, The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komanchi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan 🙂
It was a book I chanced upon when I was 17, and passionately loved one of the poems in there… and memorized it fully by heart, though the hard to find book went missing somewhere along the way during my various moves. So I was surprised and thankful that Okaasan Mang found an extra copy of this rare book and gave it to me.
My favorite poem in the book, translated into English by Mariko Aratani & Jane Hirshfield, goes like this:
In this world
love has no color –
yet how deeply
is stained by yours.
Simple, elegant, poetic. Sigh. I think people don’t usually write such sappy love poetry for their loved ones anymore huh? Sorry, but this girl is a romantic 🙂 I loved it when I first read it when I was 17. Now, at 27, I appreciate its depth even more.
Anyway, after our rainy day out, which ended with us shopping at our local supermarket, we went back to the apartment where I made some supper and had an early night to rest up for the next day.
Morning came early, and dear Mang made breakfast for all of us, so the BFF & I trooped down to her flat and nothing beats great company and a hot, hearty meal to begin the day *beams*
After washing up, we took a walk across the bridge and went through the city streets and local markets to soak it all up… it was beautiful! The weather was cold and nippy, the kind that instantly perks you up… nice and fresh!
Mang had to leave for school, where she’s studying intensive Japanese, with other international students from all walks of life. So the BFF & I took a break from shopping and stopped at a nice, quaint restaurant famed for its tonkatsu. It was simply delish! 🙂
You ground your own sesame seeds before adding it to the sauce and everything was fresh – the smell and taste was just awesome. After our scrumptious lunch, we continued with our walk around the city…
That’s us enjoying freshly made tofu donuts that were simply 100% YUMS 🙂 What I loved was the beautiful juxtaposition of the old and the new in Kyoto, truly…
Oh and just before meeting Mang (after class) at Takashimaya, I found a wonderful find in a fantastic music store that sold international instruments sourced from worldwide, which made me very happy… *drum-roll and cymbals* …A handmade clay-baked ocarina crafted by the top Japanese maker!
*Does a happy geek dance* It’s something I’d wanted for years, so I was glad to sign away on my credit card, because I just HAD to have it!!! The BFF was extremely amused, because just how many Singaporeans actually know what an ocarina is and had always wanted one? *wry grin*
Anyways. Meeting Mang after, we headed to our dinner place, but made a stop prior to Tozando, and there were just so many beautiful katanas that I lusted for.
These were the real deal, with heritage and history. Understandably, some of these samurai swords even fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars! Besides these deadly, desirable swords, the store also sold other types of traditional Japanese weapons and armor.
Next stop was Rogu, an excellent cozy eating place owned and run by a wonderful lady by the name of Misao-san 🙂 She’s quite a character – I’ve never met such an interesting 66 year old, so full of zest and character!
The food was excellent and so was the company! In fact, it got so cozy, I decided to do a little after-dinner performance just for the heck of it. It was a fun interactive close-up piece that got everyone reeling with excitement, and Mang said it was a tad too much for the old ladies in the aprons, as they were shrinking away from me after that *LOL* I had to reassure them that my magic was just entertainment!
Everyone whipped out their camera phones to record a video of it, and the BFF may upload it soon, but don’t hold your breath 😉 But meanwhile, here’s Mang with Misao-san on the extreme right, and later with us, just before we drove back home to our Kyoto apartment after spending many happy hours at her quaint little eatery!
I’ll stop here for now, will continue in just a bit – there’s just so much pictures and wonderful moments to share! Thus, to be continued…
Stay tuned! 😉