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Walking in Kyoto / 11 April 2011

Little fish on sticks, waiting to be cooked over a small fire-pit

Little fish on sticks, waiting to be cooked over a small fire-pit. Photo © Gini

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We have no gods,
we celebrate our founder,
our gratitude; the teaching
that enables us to find
The true path.
We have no gods
we celebrate the man; we want
to live the way he lived;
dress the way he dressed;
think the way he thought.

And I begin to see how
maybe, just maybe,
celebrity, the cult,
was born here.

After a hard days sightseeing (gravel and beautiful stone pathways being hard on the spine), I get a hard nights sleep. In all the old woodblock prints I so admire, people sleep on mats on the floor, with little wooden pillows. Japanese beds are still hard. I fold the very long Japanese duvet into three and put it under the bottom bed sheet; I sleep under the duvet from the second bed.

Drawing the heavy curtains in the morning reveals an over-caste sky, but no rain is forecast and we plan more city exploration. By the time we have eaten breakfast and got ourselves ready the day has warmed up and we have not gone far before we pause for ice-creams.

Our first discovery of the day is a similar Temple complex to the one we found yesterday. This one is being extensively renovated.  It claims to have the largest wooden building in the world and because the whole complex is tented with scaffolding and tarpaulin, with lots of accessible working platforms, I get to explore places usually off limits.

I recognise the layout, also the ca. three thousand seats awaiting the congregation who will continue to celebrate their founder for one whole year. I am approached by one of the members who seems to be offering to enlighten me. I feel uncomfortable, perhaps even more so since I have just seen an enormous coil of black rope. It's fatter than my arm and made of human hair.

We meander our way over to Gion, where there are covered walkways with stalls rather like those in Asakusa. The selection is different here, but just as much fun to explore. I buy some knobbly silver chopsticks and a piece of silk. There are the usual foods on sticks and we nibble some delicious raw tuna.

Later we buy hot roasted chestnuts and take them over to the Temple complex. Unlike any of the others this one is painted bright, almost fluorescent orange and jam-packed with stalls.
Getting in is problematic, the best wheelchair access being blocked off, but SP is perseverant and although my bones are somewhat shaken, we do find a way.

The stalls are cooking food, making candy-floss, selling netsuke, beads and souvenirs and there are lots of vending machines with drinks. There are also masses of people picnicking on blue tarpaulins, because here there are cherry trees in bloom.

There is a stall with whole small fish on sticks waiting be cooked in mini fire-pits, we have fun trying them. By the time we head back to the hotel it's dark and cold, but the day has been good.

A gold-framed message of sympathy and support for the earthquake victims of 11 03 2011, has appeared in the hotel foyer; in Tokyo the ground has been shaking again.

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