Kyoto is nothing if not well endowed with temples, shrines and castles, and even those previously as ignorant and ambivalent of and about its history as we, couldn’t fail to take just a little inspiration from each of the places we visited. It’s not as if we were alone in our quest, selflessly sharing our meditative experience with at least half the population of China and a few thousand citizens of other countries thrown in for good measure as well.
The famous golden temple Kinkakuji was clearly famous and golden and awfully crowded. Perhaps in a remarkable mark of self-assurance it featured a bin on the exit route serving as a repository for “unwanted lucky charms”, while NIjo castle with all it’s fortifications and hidey holes is similarly noteworthy, and thinning crowds in the late afternoon enabled us to poke around in perhaps a few more of them than would have been possible earlier in the day.
Earlier in the day, the world heritage listed zen garden at Ryoanji Temple saw several million people or perhaps more accompanying us as we ambled through the space in the same sort of shuffle we experienced on Tokyo’s Sunday shopping streets. Surely they could not all be in search of enlightenment. Some did make some pretence at peaceful contemplation, elbowing their way variously into or out of the shuffling hoard, trying to find silence amid the dull murmur of the crowd despite the public address system roaring to make itself heard above the din. Those who could, sat on the steps searching hopefully in the raked gravel for enlightenment.
Before our very eyes, a fluorescent-clad citizen of a country to the south of Canada, with a voice even more shrill than her outfit, shuffled backwards to better frame a photograph, tripping over as she did, falling into three tiers of seated contemplators somehow landing on some of their number with inches to spare saving what could very well have been a faceplant into a sea of white gravel quite possibly raked thousands of years before by a blind monk using a toothpick. Once back on her feet, gathering her breath and even before the dozen steadying hands had withdrawn from her person, she exclaimed in a volume that significantly overrode even the PA system;
"Oh wow! This is SOOOO SPIRITUAL!"
Our search for whatever she had found, continues unabated.