Kyoto, Japan

An Almost Lost Millennial Japan

Sanctuary over the forest II
The balcony of the Kiomizudera shrine overlooks the autumnal forest that surrounds Kyoto.
Shinto reverence
Two female students bow before a small shrine in the Kiomizu-dera temple.
Temple of the Golden Pavilion
Double view of Kyoto's most famous temple, the subject of Yukio Mishima's novel of the same name.
caretaker mascot
A small West Highland White Terrier at the entrance to the Garakuta cafe.
hyperbolic portal
The giant tori that marks the entrance to the Shinto domain of the Heian shrine.
Paired Restaurants
Block of bars and restaurants on the bank of the river Kamo.
kimono maid
A mannequin in traditional costume at the entrance to a restaurant in the city.
light of belief
Shinto lanterns add color to the Yasaka-jinja shrine near the Gion district.
Photographer outside a toris tunnel at Fushimi Inari shrine.
an emblematic slope
Japanese passersby on Ninen Zaka Street.
fun lighthouse
An establishment's lamp lights up the historic alley of Ponto Cho.
Sanctuary over the forest
The Kiomizu-dera wooden temple with privileged views over Kyoto's houses.
Futuristic Kyoto
The Kyoto Tower, a monument to modernity in an essentially historic city.
human taxi
Rickshaw puller prepares to lead two Japanese girls around Arashiyama.
intrigue shadows
Curious Japanese examine panels posted near the Yasaka-jinja shrine.
Light games
Visitors to the Yasaka-jinja temple admire the mosaic of Shinto lanterns.
Kyoto was on the US atomic bomb target list and it was more than a whim of fate that preserved it. Saved by an American Secretary of War in love with its historical and cultural richness and oriental sumptuousness, the city was replaced at the last minute by Nagasaki in the atrocious sacrifice of the second nuclear cataclysm.

When we disembark at Kyoto's central station, the imposing building of glass and steel, labyrinthine and futuristic architecture shuffles our expectations of millenary Japan.

We are in an eastern, Shinto and Buddhist country that is at the same time aspiring to the west, capitalist and consumerist. As the endless escalator lifts us from the ground level, we hear themes by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and other American classics.

The diagonal movement reveals an orchestra accompanied by choirs and a gigantic amphitheater full of people that rises from the stage to the terrace at the top of the huge complex. Without ever expecting it, from this top we unveil the Yamashiro valley filled by the vast Kyoto surrounding it.

Inaugurated in September 2007, Kyoto Central Station generated mixed reactions. Certain critics have been impressed by its wide spaces and bold lines that match the rocket-like look of the Kyoto TV Tower, grounded on one of the buildings opposite.

Kyoto TV Tower, a Millennial Japan almost lost

The Kyoto Tower, a monument to modernity in an essentially historic city.

Others have not forgiven such a dissonant break with traditional architecture, sometimes millenary. This controversy is far from being exclusive to the season.

Millennial Kyoto Camouflaged in Modern Kyoto

The first streets and avenues of the city we travel through give us a sense of apparent historical insipiency reinforced by Nintendo's grim headquarters building.

This impression vanished, however, in three times against the resplendent facades of the monuments, almost always half-hidden by the cluster of the most recent houses in this millenary city.

We took the subway. We left already far from the considered center. receive us Shoji, a Japanese host in his late forties, determined to welcome guests to the maximum of countries in the world. Your project is surprising in itself. It amazes us even more when we realize that an entire traditional villa is dedicated to him.

Restaurant, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

A mannequin in traditional costume at the entrance to a restaurant in the city.

Shoji could rent it but has long preferred contact with the gaijin (foreigners) who in this way enrich your life even if you do not master any language other than your mother tongue and only speak something worthy of record with those who have studied Japanese.

The owner of the house does his best to install us. He explains to us the tricks and secrets of the home, unfolds a map on a low table and points out the city's attractions that, in his opinion, we couldn't miss for the world.

And yet, it was a close call that the millenary Kyoto was not obliterated by the atomic bombs "Little Boy" or "fat man”, in August 1945.

Millennial Japan Almost Lost to History

The passion aroused by Kyoto in the hearts of visitors goes back a long way. By coincidence and misfortune of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American Secretary of War of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, Henry L. Stimson, had frequented the city several times during the 20s as Governor of the Philippines.

Some historians assert that Kyoto was also the destination of their honeymoon. In any case, the dissuasive action that he carried out earned him the reputation of being ultimately responsible for his salvation.

Kyoto is Japan's most revered city. Seventeen monuments of its 1600 Buddhist temples and nearly 400 Shinto shrines are UNESCO World Heritage.

The amount of sublime monuments is such that an author from the famous travel guide publisher Lonely Planet took the trouble to warn readers “… in Kyoto, it's easy to fall victim to an overdose of temples…”.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, an almost lost Millennial Japan

Photographer outside a toris tunnel at Fushimi Inari shrine.

Kyoto, a City Built in the Image of the Great Asian Cities of Then

To the image of the neighbor Nara, Kyoto was erected in a grid pattern inspired by Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the capital of the Chinese Tang dynasty.

The imitation of the most powerful China it was, at the time, an assumed form of progress. Finally, at the forefront of Japanese civilization, Kyoto hosted the Japanese imperial family. It did so from 794 to 1868, a long period in which, while Japan in general was ruled by shogunates in permanent confrontation, the city stood out on a cultural level.

Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

Visitors at the base of the Chion temple.

In the late XNUMXth century, the Meiji restoration movement – ​​aimed at consolidating imperial power – forced the move of emperors and family to Edo (later known as Tokyo) the capital of the East.

After Heyan-kyo (city of peace), Kyo Miyako (capital city), Keishi (metropolis) and, in the West, Meaco or Miako, Kyoto added another title to its already extensive collection of nomenclatures. For a time, it became Saikyo (the capital of the West).

The Overdose of Kyoto's Temples, Sanctuaries, and Other Monuments

In today's Kyoto, even the most optimistic visitors quickly come to terms with the impossibility of enjoying all that the city has to offer. It is then that they surrender to a sort of unofficial ranking of their attractions.

The river of people we see flowing in the historic areas of Ninen-zaka (Two Years Hill) and Sannen-zaka (Three Years Hill) heralds serious competitors for the popularity of the Golden Pavilion.

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

Double view of Kyoto's most famous temple, the subject of Yukio Mishima's novel of the same name.

There are two of the oldest streets in Kyoto, made up of long strings of machiyas (typical wooden dwellings), shops, restaurants and old tea houses.

We climb the Gojo-zaka slope, passing by Chawan-zaka (Colina do Teapot), an alley full of sweets and craft shops.

The Kiomizu-dera Temple Forest Retreat

At the top, as a reward, we come across the Kiomizu-dera temple, another of the city's heritage highlights.

Its main building extends onto a balcony supported by logs and stakes, thus detached from the hill.

Kiomizudera, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

The balcony of the Kiomizudera shrine overlooks the autumnal forest that surrounds Kyoto.

Unsurprisingly, this temple is almost always crammed with Japanese people of all ages, among which the successive school trips stand out, identifiable by the blue uniforms: pullover, suit with tie and pants that the boys insist on matching with the more flashy sneakers that found; pullover, suit and skirt (sometimes transformed into a mini-skirt) worn by girls, no matter how cold it is.

Prayer, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

Two female students bow before a small shrine in the Kiomizu-dera temple.

More than just extensions, Kiomizu-dera's wooden verandas are privileged lookouts for Kyoto, visible beyond the verdant forest that fills the plain to the distant mountains of Kitayama and Nishiyama.

Also in this temple, there is no lack of sacred rituals. We descend a long staircase below the balconies. At its bottom, we find the Otowa-no-Taki, a small waterfall turned into a fountain in which visitors form long lines to arm themselves with huge iron spoons and drink water from them believed to have therapeutic properties.

Kiomizu-dera Fountain, Kyoto, an almost lost Millennial Japan

Visitors and believers drink holy water at the Kiomizu-dera temple.

In the vicinity of the secondary temple of Jishu-jinja, the aim of the believers is to guarantee success to love. To do this, they must walk about eighteen meters between two stones with their eyes closed. They warn us that missing the second stone means a condemnation with no return to a life of celibacy.

The risk seems to us too much. We discard the challenge.

Ninen-zaka, Sannen-zaka and Kiomizu-dera Temple are part of the South Higashiyama route that continues along Ishibei-koji Street, past the Kodai-ji Temple entrance, through Maruyama Park and continues west to Yazaka-jinja , this a new temple complex.

And the Traditional Gion Neighborhood that Geishas Still Travel Through

There, at the end of the afternoon, when the geishas and the maikos (geisha apprentices) climb the stairs and cross the tori (portal) to walk and pray, we feel a fascinating intersection established between the religious sphere of Kyoto and its domain bohemian and nocturnal formed by the areas of Ponto-Cho and Gion.

The famous Ponto-Cho district is little more than a narrow alley parallel to the Kamo-gawa river. The “little more” has the countless restaurants and bars that, even so, welcome and the constant and mysterious passage of geishas on their way to their appointments with the danna, their patrons.

Geisha in Gion, Geisha, Kyoto, Japan

Geisha walks through an alley in the Pontocho neighborhood.

We wander through this domain when night falls and Ponto-Cho comes to life, illuminated and colored by oriental lanterns that lend the area a mystical atmosphere of classic Japan.

Next door is Gion. The neighboring district is dominated by modern architecture and, at rush hour, flooded with traffic. Still, it preserves some historical bags also worthy of the best geisha imagery.

Its main streets are Hanami-koji and Shinmonzen-dori, both bordered by more old houses, restaurants, antique shops and other tea houses. Many of the latter are actually establishments dedicated to secular geisha entertainment (gei=art + sha=person) which, despite being in a slow process of extinction, continues to take place behind so many closed city doors.

From eighty thousand geishas in the 20s, there are now between a thousand and two thousand, almost all of them in Kyoto.

Henry L. Stimson the Secretary of War Appreciator and Savior of Kyoto

If we go back in history one more time, it is easy for us to conclude that there might well be none left. And Henry L. Stimson's credit will never sound exaggerated.

In the middle of the decision process of the Japanese cities to annihilate, the Los Alamos Target Committee formed by US generals and scientists and led by Robert Oppenheimer, insisted on putting Kyoto at the top of the list.

They justified it "because Kyoto has never been bombed before, because it includes an industrial area and has a million inhabitants." They also considered its largely university population "better able to appreciate the meaning of a weapon as the device that would be used."

Restaurant windows, Kyoto, an almost lost Millennial Japan

Block of bars and restaurants on the bank of the river Kamo.

Against everything and everyone, in 1945, Secretary of War Stimson ordered that Kyoto be removed from the list. He argued that it had strong cultural importance and that it was not a military target. The military resisted. They continued to put the city back at the top of the list until the end of July 1945.

This stubbornness forced Stimson to address President Truman himself.

Stimson wrote in his diary that “Truman agreed that if they did not remove Kyoto from the list, Japanese resentment towards the USA it would be such that it would make any postwar reconciliation with the Americans impossible and, instead, it would make it possible with the Russians.” By that time, the tensions that led to the Cold War they were already making themselves felt.

Tori, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

The giant tori that marks the entrance to the Shinto domain of the Heian shrine.

Truman was determined not to feed the communist monster, neither in Asia nor anywhere else in the world. Until weeks before the first nuclear bomb was dropped, Nagasaki was not even on the list of target cities.

Ironically, but above all, because of Henry L. Stimson's love for Kyoto, Nagasaki took her place in the ultimate sacrifice. After Hiroshima, Nagasaki succumbed to the apocalypse.

Kyoto continued to glow.

Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Temple Reborn from the Ashes

The Golden Pavilion has been spared destruction several times throughout history, including that of US-dropped bombs, but it did not withstand the mental disturbance of Hayashi Yoken. When we admired him, he looked like never before.
Miyajima, Japan

Shintoism and Buddhism with the Tide

Visitors to the Tori of Itsukushima admire one of the three most revered scenery in Japan. On the island of Miyajima, Japanese religiosity blends with Nature and is renewed with the flow of the Seto Inland Sea.
Nara, Japan

The Colossal Cradle of the Japanese Buddhism

Nara has long since ceased to be the capital and its Todai-ji temple has been demoted. But the Great Hall remains the largest ancient wooden building in the world. And it houses the greatest bronze Vairocana Buddha.
Takayama, Japan

From the Ancient Japan to the Medieval Hida

In three of its streets, Takayama retains traditional wooden architecture and concentrates old shops and sake producers. Around it, it approaches 100.000 inhabitants and surrenders to modernity.
Okinawa, Japan

The Little Empire of the Sun

Risen from the devastation caused by World War II, Okinawa has regained the heritage of its secular Ryukyu civilization. Today, this archipelago south of Kyushu is home to a Japan on the shore, anchored by a turquoise Pacific ocean and bathed in a peculiar Japanese tropicalism.
Ogimashi, Japan

A Village Faithful to the A

Ogimashi reveals a fascinating heritage of Japanese adaptability. Located in one of the most snowy places on Earth, this village has perfected houses with real anti-collapse structures.
Magome-Tsumago, Japan

Magome to Tsumago: The Overcrowded Path to the Medieval Japan

In 1603, the Tokugawa shogun dictated the renovation of an ancient road system. Today, the most famous stretch of the road that linked Edo to Kyoto is covered by a mob eager to escape.
Kyoto, Japan

A Combustible Faith

During the Shinto celebration of Ohitaki, prayers inscribed on tablets by the Japanese faithful are gathered at the Fushimi temple. There, while being consumed by huge bonfires, her belief is renewed.
Kyoto, Japan

Survival: The Last Geisha Art

There have been almost 100 but times have changed and geishas are on the brink of extinction. Today, the few that remain are forced to give in to Japan's less subtle and elegant modernity.
Mount Koya, Japan

Halfway to Nirvana

According to some doctrines of Buddhism, it takes several lifetimes to attain enlightenment. The shingon branch claims that you can do it in one. From Mount Koya, it can be even easier.
Tokyo, Japan

A Matchmaking Sanctuary

Tokyo's Meiji Temple was erected to honor the deified spirits of one of the most influential couples in Japanese history. Over time, it specialized in celebrating traditional weddings.
Rhinoceros, PN Kaziranga, Assam, India
PN Kaziranga, India

The Indian Monoceros Stronghold

Situated in the state of Assam, south of the great Brahmaputra river, PN Kaziranga occupies a vast area of ​​alluvial swamp. Two-thirds of the rhinocerus unicornis around the world, there are around 100 tigers, 1200 elephants and many other animals. Pressured by human proximity and the inevitable poaching, this precious park has not been able to protect itself from the hyperbolic floods of the monsoons and from some controversies.
Annapurna Circuit, Manang to Yak-kharka
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna 10th Circuit: Manang to Yak Kharka, Nepal

On the way to the Annapurnas Even Higher Lands

After an acclimatization break in the near-urban civilization of Manang (3519 m), we made progress again in the ascent to the zenith of Thorong La (5416 m). On that day, we reached the hamlet of Yak Kharka, at 4018 m, a good starting point for the camps at the base of the great canyon.
Colonial Church of San Francisco de Assis, Taos, New Mexico, USA
Architecture & Design
Taos, USA

North America Ancestor of Taos

Traveling through New Mexico, we were dazzled by the two versions of Taos, that of the indigenous adobe hamlet of Taos Pueblo, one of the towns of the USA inhabited for longer and continuously. And that of Taos city that the Spanish conquerors bequeathed to the Mexico: Mexico gave in to United States and that a creative community of native descendants and migrated artists enhance and continue to praise.
Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela
PN Canaima, Venezuela

Kerepakupai, Salto Angel: The River that Falls from Heaven

In 1937, Jimmy Angel landed a light aircraft on a plateau lost in the Venezuelan jungle. The American adventurer did not find gold but he conquered the baptism of the longest waterfall on the face of the Earth
Australia Day, Perth, Australian Flag
Ceremonies and Festivities
Perth, Australia

Australia Day: In Honor of the Foundation, Mourning for Invasion

26/1 is a controversial date in Australia. While British settlers celebrate it with barbecues and lots of beer, Aborigines celebrate the fact that they haven't been completely wiped out.
Fort São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Santiago Island, Cape Verde
Cidade Velha, Cape Verde

Cidade Velha: the Ancient of the Tropico-Colonial Cities

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Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

The Fish Market That Lost its Freshness

In a year, each Japanese eats more than their weight in fish and shellfish. Since 1935, a considerable part was processed and sold in the largest fish market in the world. Tsukiji was terminated in October 2018, and replaced by Toyosu's.
scarlet summer

Valencia to Xativa, Spain (España)

Across Iberia

Leaving aside the modernity of Valencia, we explore the natural and historical settings that the "community" shares with the Mediterranean. The more we travel, the more its bright life seduces us.

Spectator, Melbourne Cricket Ground-Rules footbal, Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia

The Football the Australians Rule

Although played since 1841, Australian Football has only conquered part of the big island. Internationalization has never gone beyond paper, held back by competition from rugby and classical football.
Aurora lights up the Pisang Valley, Nepal.
Annapurna Circuit: 3rd- Upper Banana, Nepal

An Unexpected Snowy Aurora

At the first glimmers of light, the sight of the white mantle that had covered the village during the night dazzles us. With one of the toughest walks on the Annapurna Circuit ahead of us, we postponed the match as much as possible. Annoyed, we left Upper Pisang towards Escort when the last snow faded.
Gray roofs, Lijiang, Yunnan, China
Lijiang, China

A Gray City but Little

Seen from afar, its vast houses are dreary, but Lijiang's centuries-old sidewalks and canals are more folkloric than ever. This city once shone as the grandiose capital of the Naxi people. Today, floods of Chinese visitors who fight for the quasi-theme park it have become take it by storm.
View of Fa Island, Tonga, Last Polynesian Monarchy
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Exotic Signs of Life

Pitões das Junias, Montalegre, Portugal
Montalegre, Portugal

Through Alto do Barroso, Top of Trás-os-Montes

we moved from Terras de Bouro for those of Barroso. Based in Montalegre, we wander around the discovery of Paredes do Rio, Tourém, Pitões das Júnias and its monastery, stunning villages on the border of Portugal. If it is true that Barroso has had more inhabitants, visitors should not miss it.
Champagne Beach, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

Divine Melanesia

Pedro Fernandes de Queirós thought he had discovered Terra Australis. The colony he proposed never materialized. Today, Espiritu Santo, the largest island in Vanuatu, is a kind of Eden.
Geothermal, Iceland Heat, Ice Land, Geothermal, Blue Lagoon
Winter White

The Geothermal Coziness of the Ice Island

Most visitors value Iceland's volcanic scenery for its beauty. Icelanders also draw from them heat and energy crucial to the life they lead to the Arctic gates.
José Saramago in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain, Glorieta de Saramago
Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain (España)

José Saramago's Basalt Raft

In 1993, frustrated by the Portuguese government's disregard for his work “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ”, Saramago moved with his wife Pilar del Río to Lanzarote. Back on this somewhat extraterrestrial Canary Island, we visited his home. And the refuge from the portuguese censorship that haunted the writer.
Guest, Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Michaelmas Cay, Australia

Miles from Christmas (Part XNUMX)

In Australia, we live the most uncharacteristic of the 24th of December. We set sail for the Coral Sea and disembark on an idyllic islet that we share with orange-billed terns and other birds.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
Prayer flags in Ghyaru, Nepal
Natural Parks
Annapurna Circuit: 4th – Upper Banana to Ngawal, Nepal

From Nightmare to Dazzle

Unbeknownst to us, we are faced with an ascent that leads us to despair. We pulled our strength as far as possible and reached Ghyaru where we felt closer than ever to the Annapurnas. The rest of the way to Ngawal felt like a kind of extension of the reward.
Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, from historic capital to World Heritage, urban art
UNESCO World Heritage
Angra do Heroismo, Terceira (Azores), Azores

Heroina do Mar, from Noble People, Brave and Immortal City

Angra do Heroísmo is much more than the historic capital of the Azores, Terceira Island and, on two occasions, Portugal. 1500km from the mainland, it gained a leading role in Portuguese nationality and independence that few other cities can boast.
Earp brothers look-alikes and friend Doc Holliday in Tombstone, USA
tombstone, USA

Tombstone: the City Too Hard to Die

Silver veins discovered at the end of the XNUMXth century made Tombstone a prosperous and conflictive mining center on the frontier of the United States to Mexico. Lawrence Kasdan, Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner and other Hollywood directors and actors made famous the Earp brothers and the bloodthirsty duel of “OK Corral”. The Tombstone, which, over time, has claimed so many lives, is about to last.
Balo Beach Crete, Greece, Balos Island
balos a Seitan Limani, Crete, Greece

The Bathing Olympus of Chania

It's not just Chania, the centuries-old polis, steeped in Mediterranean history, in the far northeast of Crete that dazzles. Refreshing it and its residents and visitors, Balos, Stavros and Seitan have three of the most exuberant coastlines in Greece.

Gangtok House, Sikkim, India
Gangtok, India

An Hillside Life

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The Toy Train story
On Rails
Siliguri a Darjeeling, India

The Himalayan Toy Train Still Running

Neither the steep slope of some stretches nor the modernity stop it. From Siliguri, in the tropical foothills of the great Asian mountain range, the Darjeeling, with its peaks in sight, the most famous of the Indian Toy Trains has ensured for 117 years, day after day, an arduous dream journey. Traveling through the area, we climb aboard and let ourselves be enchanted.
Replacement of light bulbs, Itaipu watt hydroelectric plant, Brazil, Paraguay
Itaipu Binational Hydroelectric Power Plant, Brazil

Itaipu Binational Hydroelectric Power Plant: Watt Fever

In 1974, thousands of Brazilians and Paraguayans flocked to the construction zone of the then largest dam in the world. 30 years after completion, Itaipu generates 90% of Paraguay's energy and 20% of Brazil's.
herd, foot-and-mouth disease, weak meat, colonia pellegrini, argentina
Daily life
Colónia Pellegrini, Argentina

When the Meat is Weak

The unmistakable flavor of Argentine beef is well known. But this wealth is more vulnerable than you think. The threat of foot-and-mouth disease, in particular, keeps authorities and growers afloat.
savuti, botswana, elephant-eating lions
Savuti, Botswana

Savuti's Elephant-Eating Lions

A patch of the Kalahari Desert dries up or is irrigated depending on the region's tectonic whims. In Savuti, lions have become used to depending on themselves and prey on the largest animals in the savannah.
Full Dog Mushing
Scenic Flights
Seward, Alaska

The Alaskan Dog Mushing Summer

It's almost 30 degrees and the glaciers are melting. In Alaska, entrepreneurs have little time to get rich. Until the end of August, dog mushing cannot stop.