After a brief visit to Hiroshima, I arrived in Kyoto and found the ryokan surprisingly easily once I had checked with tourist information that I was starting in the right direction. I washed my clothes in the laundry room and went out in search of food. A corner cafe, one of a chain, offered pork, avocado and rice for 490 yen – about £3 – which I supplemented with a quarter of the apple and a slice of the cake from Hiroshima. Although the ryokan had showers and hot water downstairs, I could not remember where. The upstairs facilities were limited to cold water in two troughs in th corridor, one just outside my room. The room itself contained a large table with a TV and the bedding, nothing else. I had not realized that sleeping on the floor would also mean sitting on the floor. I unplugged the TV in order to plug in my charger – it’s an American-style plug, so no problem.
The next morning I found my way to the hotel where the tour started, 40 minutes walk. I am not going to write about all the World Heritage sites and other tourist attractions we visited. The Gardens were peaceful and attractive, but most of the temples disappointing.
The history was mainly about their political significance, and the tour route usually avoided the religious buildings in favor of gift shops (especially the Golden Temple). I liked the idea of the Philosopher’s Walk
and was able to meditate where it was a streamside stone path, less so where it is now a gravelled roadway.
There were also some pleasant walks on Wednesday, along a river and through a bamboo grove
to a small woodland temple where I did see a woman praying. Later, that walk passed the House of Fallen Persimmons where the Zen poet Basho penned his last work.
But my main temple experience was early in the morning at the large Pure Land temple across the road from the ryokan, and my memories of Kyoto are of streets of tiny houses and shops (including one where we met a tea master from Switzerland) and ubiquitous soft drinks vending machines.