This Sunday, I hopped aboard the JR Rapid Express train at Kobe’s Sannomiya station to revisit one of my favorite travel destinations from my 2011 study abroad experience: Kyoto. What I had hoped would be an enjoyable day ended up being a nearly perfect day in many different aspects.
As soon as I stepped outside my door in rural Kobe, I knew that today’s weather would be absolutely perfect for photography and sightseeing in Kyoto. The first time I visited Kyoto back in the winter of 2011, it was a cloudy day that was not very accomidating to quality photography. I took many photos, but not too many to worth keeping or printing. They all exuded a feeling of the day’s bitter cold and dreariness. Today’s weather would be rather different. While it was the hottest October day on record for Kobe, there was very little humidity.
Upon arrival in Kyoto about one hour after departing from Sannomiya, I was instantly hit with the positive memories from my entire study abroad program and my initial trip to Japan. Have you ever been somewhere for the first time and you thought that you would never return to that place again? The first time I went to Kyoto, I knew, for certain, that I would never return. As a result, I took in as much of the city as I could. From Arashiyama and its monkey park, to downtown Kyoto and the shopping in the train station, I did it all. Today’s return and a probable return on Saturday with a friend allowed me to slow down and take in more of the sights and sounds than I was able to during my first visit to Kyoto.
This time for reflection and observation took me back to 2011, as I relived heading to the famous sites with my friends and the joy we all experienced as we entered Kansai for the first time. Long-forgotten memories of getting on the wrong train and being hopelessly lost in rural Kyoto and desperately phoning our chaperone for help and other memories of enjoying a green tea flavored parfait on the streets after drinking a warm, pancake-flavored, vending machine drink rushed back to me all at once.
History even had a way of repeating itself as I nearly boarded the incorrect train bound for Arashiyama in the hectic Kyoto Station. All I could do was chuckle to myself as I nearly made the same mistake as I did years ago. The only difference this time is that I have a handle on Japanese and should not have made any of the mistakes I did two years ago!
I took a moment to take in all of the sites for a second time as I crossed the bridge into Arashiyama. It was amazing how all those positive memories from years ago came rushing back all at once. The memories and the places that hold forgotten memories helped make today a perfect day. I was taken back to the excitement of walking across the bridge to begin the ascent to the monkey park. I remembered which flags were flying outside of Kyoto Station. I even remembered what we ate for lunch that day during our free time in the city. The brain is so amazing as it keeps so many memories locked away, waiting fo rthe perfect time to reveal them once again.
The third aspect that made today perfect was the scenery. While I stayed confined to an area adjacent to Arashiyama, the scenery was absolutely perfect. Whether I was riding the one car train between Arashiyama and Kinkakuji Temple, walking through the streets, or heading down the bamboo walkway, the lighting and the atmosphere of the entire day was perfect. Joyful tourists filled the air with conversation and laughter and the clear air and clear skies allowed the sun to illuminate the area in a way I had never seen in the past. Kinkakuji glistened in the sun and the bamboo walkway became a perfectly lit walkway through a subdued forest. I even got a glimpse of some geisha riding a rickshaw before departing towards Kyoto. I started my day walking through the city and revisiting old sites and ended my day watching a young woman walk off into the sunset in the groves of bamboo stalks.