Thursday, September 19, 2013


It's an old cliché that we don't see the sights of our own cities.  When I survey the teenage years I lived in Kyoto, I realize that I spent very little time visiting the city's historical treasures.  Then again, I suppose I had different interests back then, and there is a time for everything.

History has accumulated in Kyoto since at least the eighth century, when the city became the capital and seat of the imperial court.  During the Heian period (794-1192), the city was structured into a square grid of crisscrossing streets.  Still today, a palimpsest street map retains key elements from the city's original design.  Perhaps because the streets of Kyoto have such an interesting past (and probably also because I was accordingly primed as a tourist), paths and passages appeared in many of the photos that I took.

Photos from Kyoto

A truth that is fairly obvious but easily forgotten: it takes some conscious effort to relax and slow down.  When you're in a beautiful city with countless places to go, there's a natural impulse to create an optimized schedule -- to make "efficient" use of time, the more sights visited the better.  But of course, there is a great deal to be gained from just ambling around, taking the occasional random turn, trusting the city to deliver you to fortuitous destinations.  In spite of all my research, the best meal I had in Kyoto was on the casual recommendation of a taxi driver; the most interesting walk was not mentioned in any guidebook.

And somewhere along the "philosopher's walk", I ran into a family of bears fishing in the river:

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