I could hear the yippy creature from outside. It had only taken an hour or so from Friends to Suzuki Guesthouse https://www.hostelworld.com/pwa/hosteldetails.php/Suzuki-Guesthouse/Kyoto/267526 The city center was like any other, with tall buildings of glass and streets filled with people; a little less here than Tokyo, but still business men and women marching to work. I passed through a market, then around Nijo Castle to my destination. I entered, kicked off my shoes and filled out the usual forms. The lady offered me tea and we talked for a moment. Something about her accent made me question where she learned English. “Self taught,” she said. I was impressed; trying to learn half a dozen sentences in Japanese was difficult for me.
He was like a little cotton ball, a snowy white puff of fur with a loud, screechy voice. Friendly, licky, jumpy, and liked to sniff my grocery bag, he barked at passersby. He was a Pomeranian, most likely crossed with a Chihuahua making him a Pomchi, or a better name another friend and I came up with long ago- Pomehuahua. He reminded me of Jackson.
The owners; husband, wife and dog were the most pleasant and personable I’ve met so far. The lady gave me a map of the city and pointed out all the best shrines and places to see the blooming Sakura flowers. As things started to get bad, which they did, and I spent a few more days indoors than I’d have liked (working on work), she always asked how I was doing and encouraged me to take a break, go for a walk and clear my head before getting back to it. It was mid March, and COVID-19 had finally hit home- hard.
The Imperial Palace of Kyoto was only a little ways away. I was expecting to see the interior of the grounds, but they were closed with guard’s stations at the doors. Instead I toured the grounds, which in hindsight, were a lot more beautiful. It was like a park, with wide gravel roads and large patches of greenery. Families picnicked, kicking around a ball and taking pictures of their children and the scenery. Though some of the trees had not grown into their leaves yet, a patch of cherry blossoms has fully flowered. A crowd had gathered round the half dozen Sakura trees, snapping pics and selfies from every angle. I got a few for myself before finishing my walk about.
Another day I headed to somewhere called the golden pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji temple. Less than a sixty minute walk through the city suburbs and a quick purchase of a ticket, the grounds opened up. Coming across it for the first time, I held my breath. The bright yellow temple sat picturesque on the edge of a lake, glittering gold in the noonday sunlight. Hundreds of people were taking photos, most of which were locals, which surprised me a little. Out of all the digital cameras and cell phones, one guy had a Polaroid which totally threw me off. Girls posed cutely with the temple in the background, some in their traditional garb of colorful kimonos. I guess since I looked foreign, a traveling European couple asked me to get a pic of the two together. The grounds were well kept, snaking through the landscape, rising and falling with the terrains natural contours. There were a few more little stops along the way, but nothing could beat that first sight.
What I was not expecting in Japan was a touch of Norse mythology. On my first night I made my noodles as usual and went to sit. She was by herself, staring at her screen with headphones in. Normally I’d leave someone preoccupied alone, and go sit by myself, but something pulled me to sit with her. We exchanged pleasantries and got to talking. Freya, named for the goddess of love and beauty was from Denmark and working at the hostel. Discussing all things Japan at first got us somehow on the topic of school. Apparently in Europe (mostly Scandinavia) they have ‘high schools’ solely dedicated to learning and the practice of fine arts: creative writing, painting, music and culinary and probably a lot more. They’re international schools, which she said weren’t too expensive and housed post secondary students in college dorms. Might be something to look into.
Thinking about moving on, something else has come up. The epidemic has spread and is already starting to cause a lot of chaos. With my job at home restricting my hours to near zero and Freya and the owners in a bit of a panic, it’s time to start thinking about what to do next.