I was fortunate to tag along to a work-related trip to Kyoto at the end of last week, and escaped the seemingly never-ending rain of Tokyo. Kyoto is different to Tokyo in more ways than it is similar. I suppose even the freshest tourists will notice the difference in building height and surrounding space, if nothing else. After living in Tokyo for over three years, I can safely say that a short visit to Kyoto is like a breath of fresh air.
Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, both small and large, which allow superb vantage points from which to see the city, but also act as natural barriers to the expansion of the city. Temples litter the city – Kyoto's probably only more famous for Geisha.
Yes, I was playing "Mr Tourist", but I think that I can safely say that the people of Kyoto move at a different pace to those in Tokyo. Furthermore, I was constantly finding myself reflecting on the "space" on the trains, inside cafés, in restaurants, even on the pavement. It's amazing how just a slightly roomier environment relaxes the mind.
Yes, I am very aware of how silly I sound calling Kyoto "roomy", but compared to my typical day, it's positively deserted.
The temples can offer a tranquil moment or two, in between the seemingly alternating Chinese & Japanese tour groups. Why some people need to have their hands held, 24/7, following someone with a big flag, is completely beyond me. But then, some people can't enjoy themselves without having their entire day organised with activities and a heavy scheduled. Not exactly my idea of a holiday.
The benefit of these groups, is that they usually clear people away – though I sometimes pretend to be part of their tour groups. I enjoy seeing the look on some of their faces...
"Is this 6ft tall white man part of our Beijing tour package... I don't remember him in Himeji..."
Once I've scared the groups away, or they've got to be at the next temple within the next few seconds, there is a moment of peace.
Enjoy it while it lasts – another group is coming...