Traveling 2007 – August 8, KYOTO


Kyoto is the most well known city in Japan for shrines, historical sites and traditional villages. It’s a city that’s thousands of years old and was once the Imperial Capital of Japan, and has only maintained its stature with a booming night-life and tourist industry.

Basically, when it comes to preserved cultural heritage sites, Kyoto is where people go to look at a past way of life, while being constantly confronted with the hyper-real Japanese culture of today.

We came straight from Osaka, uncertain of what to see but certain that Kyoto wouldn’t disappoint. We quickly found English-speaking people to help us, a rarity in Japan, and headed straight for the temples.

As in Korea, at tourist sites it’s expected that  journeyers march for some time up a steep hill while being ritually picked off by “specialty” retailers. It took us about an hour but after that mess we came across a sprawling temple area of preserved country-side and villages

The differences in Korean and Japanese architecture with temples is staggering. The Japanese are well known perveyers of subtlety, matching dark browns with black and white, while Korean temples feature meretricious colors that are both vivid and distracting.

Though to say Japanese temples are fully “subtle” is not entirely accurate. Their Buddhas, most made from solid granite, are far bigger than the statues within the penninsula

Here you can see a Big Buddha next to a high utility van, and the statue is far further back as well. Here’s the same statue shot from beneath the fence where we couldn’t get in;

Another difference in Korean and Japanese architecture is the growing necessity in Koreans to begin building up, rather than out. While Japan overall is a bit overpopulated, at least we can still go to some cities and still see this:

While in Korea there would be a multitude of high-rise apartments blocking the skyline like behemoth concrete blocks.

At any rate, the night-life was a riot, though since Kyoto is a bit of a tourist city, it was overpriced as well. As usual we spent most of the time twisting through labyrinthine sidestreets, cutting into Japanese brothels and slithering past with women in traditional geisha attire and make-up.

At night, the temples were still enthralling.

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