Tuesday, 21 June I woke up at 4 am. It was raining. What are my options? Go back to sleep.
5 am. Still raining. Sleep some more.
6 am. Still raining. “Oh what the hell, I’m done with this sleeping. Besides, a bit of water has never really bothered me.”
I was on a train by 7 am. Together with bunch of Japanese. They don’t sleep either. Luckily, tourists do. I found myself at Fushimi Inara Temple, one of the top Japanese tourist attractions, pretty much all by myself. I did my morning prayer and then followed the path to the top of the hill. The trail leads you through thousands of bright red shrines and is just stunning. As there were no people around, all I could here were birds singing their morning serenades and raindrops. A beautifuuuuul way to start a day.
On my way back down, I witnessed a traditional Japanese dancing/singing performance. The musicians were amazing, but I couldn’t believe how good the dancers were. Four of them, but they moved like one. Same step size, not a single arm out of alignment, turns were on the beat and not a moment later. No smiles, their faces were as serious as possible. Either way, they were gorgeous.
I arrived to Nara together with what seems like every other tourist in the country. I walked through the massive park, full of temples, including Todai-ji. Seeing nothing but temples, I am slowly getting fed up with them, however this one still left me breathless. It’t simply enormous. Apparently is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. And it is a home of 14-point-something meters high Buddha with 50 cm wide nose.
I found one trail and decided to follow it. Since my map didn’t cover such wide area, I had to follow the signs and consider maps on the way. In Japan, this is quite an experience. The trails and tracks are pretty well signed, however they are slightly hidden. When you come to the point where you don’t know where to go next, there is a sign, somewhere, you just have to find it first. It’s some sort of treasure hunt ;). The bigger problem is reading the map. Most of the maps are only in Japanese, but you can go around that. What confuses me is that they keep turning maps, so north is not always north, sometimes is west, the next time might be south. I just can’t figure them out. Of course I got lost :).
I ended the day with a walk through a magnificent bamboo forest. Arashiyama seems like a posher area of Kyoto. This doesn’t mean that houses are any bigger, they just look nicer, more expensive, have a bit richer garden (full of bonsais as they don’t have space for fully grown trees) and slightly bigger carpark (they can fit Mercedes AMG but not Porsche Cayenne).
Japan is slightly bigger than NZ (380,000 vs 270,000 square km), and has 127 million people (as opposed to 4.5 million in NZ). Only around 30% of the land is populated as the rest are mountains and forests. So they literally live on top of the other. Luckily they are of smaller constitution then :).