Student Diary – Day Two. James strikes again, this time with an account of Kyoto’s shrines.

June 26, 2016

Day 2 (As written and experienced by James Duffy)

I awoke at 7am to a strange beeping sound coming from the other side of the room. As I puzzled

out my surroundings I realised that I was indeed laying on a futon in a ryokan in the eastern nation

of Japan. After that properly set in, I left my quarters to eat my breakfast kindly provided for me by

the ryokan staff. Toast, orange slices, juice and a banana were what awaited me. Not the most

Japanese of breakfasts but it was oishii (delicious) all the same. We were then informed of our

schedule for the day which primarily consisted of a historical tour of the various temples and

ancient buildings in Kyoto.

First was a Buddhist temple just across the road from where we were staying. The pictures I took

speak for themselves. The architecture was simply breathtaking. The insides were incredible too

but unfortunately photography was prohibited inside the temple itself.

Second on our surprisingly extensive list of archaic wonders was an old castle, the name of which

escapes me. This castle was far different from the European variety I had grown accustomed to.

For starters, it was all built on a single storey. It had no defensive measures to speak of aside from

some very creaky floorboards to alert an individual of high stature of the presence of approaching

ninjas. Sharing this experience would have been one of my top priorities were it not for the fact that

photography was prohibited in this building as well. I couldn’t break these sacred rules so my

words and a few pictures of the outside of the building will have to suffice for this occasion.

After a thorough romp through the halls of this hallowed building, we took a short break in the

cafeteria/gift shop. I partook in my first casual purchase of the trip there with an exclusive

Japanese beverage: a melon soda. It was quite tasty and was very different from a common Fanta

or Coca-Cola.

Thirdly, we made our way to the only destination that I managed to note down the name of:

Rokuon-ji. It is only natural that I made sure to jot down the title of this place in the recesses of my

mind because the temple itself was made of pure gold. A golden temple is not just a waste of a

precious natural resource, it is also something that one could only expect to see once in a lifetime if

they were lucky. So, naturally I took a couple of pictures of it as I made my way through the

luscious gardens that surrounded it. It’s worth noting that, not only was photography NOT permitted

inside this temple, but also entry to the temple itself was off limits so no luck in carving out a piece

of the wall to put into my retirement fund.

On the way out of these grounds I took a fortune from a machine as a souvenir. “You can realise

almost everything as if you could drive easily on a downhill road. Work hard with belief, and you’ll

be successful just like grasses grow thanks to the rain heaven gives.” It said. As vague and cryptic

as one would expect from a poorly translated fortune I suppose but a fun souvenir all the same.

The last stop on our list was a mostly outdoors temple built into the side of a hill. Before that

however, we had to walk up a long alleyway packed to the brim with more souvenir shops. It was

here that I bought my lunch for the day. A delectable bento box. Tempted as I was to buy more

things, I would not be swayed from my main task yet. I made my way to the temple and thoroughly

surveyed it. It was a beautiful location with spectacular views and lookouts from which I stood and

observed the landscape as much as I could. As I did I noticed the large grey clouds that had just

began covering the sky but with umbrella in hand, I was prepared. The rain started and did not stop

for the rest of the day. Luckily, I was kept fairly dry due to my poncho and umbrella. On the way

back down the hill, I stopped by a small shop that sold merchandise based on the works of Hayao

Miyazaki; visionary director of Japanese animated films such as “My Neighbour Totoro” and

“Spirited Away”. Any product you could possibly think of that could be related to these films aside,

of course, from the films themselves.

To conclude our day, we retreated back to the restaurant paradise under Kyoto station that we had

visited a day prior. I dined with a different group of people to the previous rowdy bunch. I had

spaghetti for my main meal but with a Japanese twist. That being that it was prepared by a

Japanese chef in Japan… Hey, I can’t eat sashimi every night!

I had thought that my night was over at that point but no! In fact, the highlight of my day was just

coming up! Before returning to our rooms for the night, we were given the opportunity to visit a

Japanese department store. Never have I seen a department store quite like it! The selection of

goods at this store was ten times that of any store in Australia or any I’ve ever seen! The toy

department and electronics department especially held my attention with products that would never

be seen on Australian shelves in a million years. It was as if I had stepped into a future of

commerce and advertising but the good kind.

Finally I returned to my living quarters and took a well deserved shower. Then, I settled down into

my futon once more. I always seemed to drift off very quickly in these because while they are on

the floor, they are still surprisingly comfortable. And it’s a good thing too since I would never have

wanted to wait for longer than I needed to for the next day.