There is a movie out there some of you may have seen it. In it the protagonist walks into a crowd and feels those around him while his instinct takes over and draws him to those in need. Now I don’t claim to be some sort of savior but this is the instinct I rely on when I’m in search of a place to happen. It’s what guides my actions, behavior and direction. When this is in tune with the world everything goes great but when it’s out of synch then problems tend to happen. Sages have long pondered this concept and we today seek to ride that crest like a surfer who navigates that wave with such ease.
Finding myself in an American themed bar in Japan is not that far fetched. There is a romanticized notion of this country that has a powerful effect. Heck I still hold such a view about the ideal that has such power. Age has tampered this a bit but the ideal can’t be broken even if the reality doesn’t hold up anymore. That is beside the point. This place California’s Blue Sky just happened to be one of those places that drew me in. I had the vague notion of having a quick meal and moving on. However, I ended up staying a lot longer and talking with a variety of people about my explorations of this city and my impressions of Japan and the world.
Let that sink in a little. All those people that have come into my life both here and all over are the people that have given the places we have met a meaning. When I think about places it’s me thinking about the times we have shared. Sometimes the time was too short as it is never enough but the stings that bind us to responsibilities and our own growth tug and pull us in those directions. I have my own strings and as much as I’d like to be my own puppeteer I don’t have full mastery yet. That’s what a lifetime is for.
I was asked what I’ve seen today during my sightseeing. The first place that I went to is Kinkaku or the Golden Pavilion. It is a Buddhist hall that contains relics of Buddha. It was originally a villa for a statesman but after his death in keeping with his wishes it was converted into a temple. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. In keeping with this prestige it is extremely crowded. The grounds that surround it are quite beautiful as well. It is in keeping with the Zen aesthetic of simplicity.
It was a bit of a trek to make it to these grounds. The site is on the outskirts of town along with other shrines and temples. I knew that I wasn’t going to visit all of them. Being filled with all kinds of tourists visiting the place it was buzzing with activity. People were clamoring around points of interest and to get that great shot myself included.
The next stop was the Imperial Palace. This place kind of reminded me of the Forbidden city although the fortifications were not nearly as extensive. The grounds once held an extensive number of buildings that are now gone. These housed all the officials associated with running the country. Entering the palace seemed like a hassle as one had to hire a guide and as time was beginning to be a factor I opted against it. Nevertheless I walked the grounds surrounding the Palace as I enjoyed the fresh air provided by the variety of trees there.
I went by the Manga museum as well. I read about it and what the reviews said proved to be true. Although there is an extensive collection housed within it is more of a library than a museum. The building used to be an old high school and from the outside at least it did look that way. I continued my journey to a place I really wanted to see Nijo Castle.
Nijo Castle used to be the residence of the head shogun. From here all the clans were controlled by a central figure who was a kind of a general. The place was heavily fortified but quite beautiful at the same time. The floors had a built in squeak to it that had a melodic sound. It acted as a kind of alarm system to prevent assassins from sneaking up and killing someone important. Taking photographs was prohibited inside this building for some reason. The spaces inside all had a purpose and in some locations mannequins dressed up in period clothing were displayed in the manner in which people would be at the time of its use. It was an interesting place to visit.
I went back to the hotel after this for a nap before heading out again. The gloom of the day made me feel sleepy. Then afterward I decided to go out again. I had a few places picked out to visit for my dinner but after a few of them were either too expensive or not quite what I wanted I walked along confident that I would find something. That’s when I came upon the California’s Blue Sky Dinner Bar. The big Harley Chopper in the front drew my attention first and as I came closer the proprietor Ronnie invited me in to have a seat at the bar. We started talking a bit with our broken languages and I had a typical American meal.
There seemed to be many regulars coming and going. One of his friends that stopped by Matty (I believe that was his name) used to live in London and we had a long conversation about many different things. He used to live in London in the time of the train disaster around Clapham Junction. I know that place well having passed that memorial many times on my way to work. He told of how the doors used to be opened by opening the window and unlatching the door from the outside. We talked about geopolitics and the relationship between different Asian countries and how it is all interrelated. We live in a precarious world with those at the top playing with our lives for their own benefit. He even bought me a drink. I had a few conversations with people there each in a different state of inebriation and English facility.
Ronnie asked me if I would come back to Japan and I said yes. I would definitely spend a lot more time in Kyoto. It is still more of a typical Japanese city than what I am told Tokyo has become. As a major international hub Tokyo has grown into something more than just a capital of Japan. It is a worldly city belonging to citizens of the planet and not just Japan. In this respect it is like London, New York, Paris and a few others who’s names can be debated. I’ll see for myself how it is soon.