I started off this past week with an afternoon visit to the famed Kinkakuji (金閣寺), that golden temple reflecting into a pond that you’ve seen in any google image search for “Japan.” Well here it is.
The reason I don’t sound so thrilled is because, well, it wasn’t really that thrilling. Here’s why.
I’m a gal who at this point in my journey has romped all over nearly every temple or site of interest in Kyoto I can get access to. I’m starting to know this town as well as I know say, Tuscaloosa. Kinkakuji is extremely close to campus, around a five minute bike ride, so I’ve put off going for some time. Last week I finally got off my butt and stopped by after class.
The first thing I noticed was the crowd. This little site was packed to the gills, and even more surprisingly, more than half were foreigners. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I hadn’t seen this high concentration of them before, and there are so many other, cooler, not tourist trap places they could see. But anywho.
After begrudgingly forking up 400 yen (about $4.00) we were herded into this gate, and into a very congested little area of people staring and taking pictures. A couple of girls asked me for their picture taken in broken English, and I, after having lived here for two months, responded in Japanese. Oops.
They were Korean, and had not a clue what I was saying.
It got weirder from there, the short crescent shaped walkway took us around the actual golden temple (though you can’t even go inside) and as we got behind it, a couple of high school girls asked myself and my friend Beth for our autographs.
At least they were Japanese this time so communication was accomplished. They were actually very sweet, and extremely shy. One wanted a picture with us, and I had to assure the other two in Japanese it was ok to take pictures with us too. I guess that’s what they call the celebrity effect.
We walked a few yards to a cluster of statues surrounding a bowl of coins. If you tossed a coin into the bowl it was supposed to be good luck. Guess we know where this place gets the money for the yearly replacement of the gold leaf.
Overall I gotta say the place was a tourist trap, despite the interesting nature of the thing and how pretty it is, it’s really not even that old. They replace the gold leaf yearly for goodness sake.
At least it makes for a good story, and the matcha ice cream was great.
What I was really looking forward to that week was Sunday. I had been planning for so very long to buy the next step in my repertoire, the nifty fifty.
Camera lens that is. Such a beaut.
I took off to go buy the lovely thing Sunday afternoon, taking a train to Kyoto Station (京都駅), the bustling center of travel and shopping. This includes technology. I weaved through the crowds to the goal, the giant department store that features one of the largest camera selections I’ve ever seen. Knowing exactly what I was after, I picked up a filter and asked the nice gal working there for my lens. We then chatted as I struggled to fill out the form for a 10% discount. Luckily she was nice enough to help me out with the kanji. And just like that my money went poof.
Prize in hand, and feeling like a pauper I decided nothing would do but to pick up a Starbucks matcha frappuchino. Cause I can.
I sat on a bench near the station proper and people watched for a while, and then I began to explore a little. Once I got in the station I was blown away, as I have often been, at how grand the place is. It’s more splendid than Tokyo Station.
From there I followed some signs to something called “Sky Garden.” A few escalators and ogling later I came upon what was really a garden, in the sky. Couples held hands on benches and tourists took pictures of a 360 degree view of Kyoto behind glass panels. I picked a cozy corner facing west and watched the sun go down over a city that is becoming more and more my own, however short my stay is.