Kyoto Report No. 1

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life in Kyoto for a westerner in the age of Covid. The city is the old capital of Japan and was spared from the nuclear devastation that ended the Pacific War in 1945 because some US politician decided it was too culturally important to the Japanese (Source). It is a large city (1.5 million residents) nestled in a valley and surrounded by rather high mountains to the north, east and west. I am living near the Yoshida campus of Kyoto University, one of the best higher degree institutions in the world. My house is just near the – Kamo River – which runs north and south through the eastern side of the city.

We bought second hand bicycles from a nearby shop for a song (cheap) and they are a lifesaver – the increased mobility has increased our range of activities incredibly.

It is a bike friendly city and even provides large bicycle parking areas throughout. So instead of parking a car, you ride into the park and it costs around 100 yen to park for the day (variable).

The River is very important and provides magnificent paths along its banks to go running, walking or cycling. I can run for many kms in either direction along the paths, although they get very wet when it rains.

Apparently, in ancient times they diverted the Kamo eastward so it lay east of the Imperial Palace to avoid a sense of disunity in the capital.

Anyway, if you run (walk) north upstream from where I live near Kojin Hashi Bridge and under the next bridge (Kamo Ohashi), the river splits into a Y, with the Kamo to the left and the Takana River to the right the northern suburbs soon end and you are running in the countryside.

Highly recommended.

The Botanical Gardens are on the east bank of the Kamo just past Kitaoji Dori and we visited there last weekend.

It is definitely worth the 200 yen admission.

Here I am getting a brain top-up at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens last weekend.

Note the mask!

Japanese are very respectful of each other and most (very high proportion) wear masks because they understand they reduce the transmission of respiratory diseases such as Covid.

I noticed last weekend while out riding that in certain locations (like the – Philosophers Path, which is on the east side of town in the hills), many Western visitors were without masks.

A sign of disrespect and ignorance may I add.

We have also ridden our bikes into the hills east of Kyoto and walked through:

1. Nanzen-ji temple area

2. Yoshida Shrine and Green Space

3. Higashiyama Jisho-ji temple

All spectacular.

There was a mini festival in our neighbourhood last Sunday which a number of marchers dressed in traditional costumes ringing bells on tall sticks and pushing a huge cart with a sort of mini shinto shrine.

I deduced it as about keeping the gods at ease to prevent a volcano on Mt Fuji.

There were great – Taiko – percussionists playing and we were invited to have a go on one of the ‘chū-daiko’ drums that you hit with two thick sticks in a rather demonstrative fashion.

A big booming sound with beautiful flute melodies accompanying the percussive impact.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the morning ceremonies.

On October 22, the festival of ages is on celebrating 1000 years of Kyoto history. We hope to watch the parade which depicts all the different historical eras going back to when the capital was here.

Talking of which, if you are a runner, the old Imperial Palace and gardens is a great place. It is just across fhe Kojin Hashi Bridge from where I live and once through the gates there are great running tracks, especially in the northern area of the gardens where a mini forest has been maintained.

It is very peaceful inside the Old Walls which is quite at odds with the busy roads that surround it on the North, West and South sides.

You can run several kms around the Palace property it is so big.

Anyway, having fun.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. The Japanese seem to understand life and live in harmony with nature in ways that we, in the west, can’t understand: we’re to busy destroying it.
    The same goes to economics.
    We had nobel laureates predicting the colapse of the Yen and nothing happened.
    By the way, the nobel prize turned into a sort of humorist sketch, like that Monty Python’s oldie “upper class twit of the year competition”
    I wonder why they didn’t “nobelized” Paul Volcker.

  2. Sounds a lovely place that caters for its citizens. All those running tracks remind me of Chinese cities with greenways that are belatedly going some small way to rectifying the error of letting cars dominate.

  3. So jealous.

    I would be very interested in your take on the Japanese craft sector and what it might tell us about building a vibrant and high skilled craft sector in Australia.

    Seems that Japan has a great deal to offer on building cultural and community in society.

  4. Bill, I don’t know what your alcohol consumption, or the drinking culture amongst the staff at your new Uni, is like, but one of the few valid excuses in Japan for getting out of multiple excessive after-work drinking sessions, should you need to, is if you are marathon training.

    With all that running, it looks like you might be halfway there already – so if you need that get-out card, you should be able to play it quite convincingly.

    (Of course, to maintain credibility, you will be expected to do the marathon at the end of it!)

    Please keep the ‘life in Kyoto’ posts coming!

    One of my regrets is not having the time to visit Nara, which I’m sure you will be able to do.

    Best, MrS

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