If not now when? A quote I first encountered from one of Elijah Wood’s news articles. It had a strong impact to me as a person because I always set the things I want to do aside and prioritize others that need to be done first- work and family. I wanted to travel, learn to play a musical instrument, but I did not have the time and money back then. Now that my situation seems to be quiet and calm, I push myself by remembering the quote “If not now, when?”
I’ve been here in Japan for more than four years already. But in that four years, I haven’t taken the time to explore and enjoy Japan-deeply. Year 2013 when I first thought of going to Kyoto. But I did not have enough money that time. Come 2014, I had to focus on my studies for the National Certification for Careworkers in Japan. It’s 2015, I’m still not financially stable but I could not give my self another excuse for not pushing through with my dream of going to Kyoto. “If not now, when?” And so I went on.
For the first time in four years last October 31, I got the chance to visit Kyoto – a famous place to visit in Autumn. It was just kind of wrong timing because the leaves have not completely turned red yet. But to enjoy it, I focused on the fact that I was in Kyoto with friends, far from stress.
We met up at the Kyoto Station. In front of it is the Kyoto Tower. I heard that each prefecture have their own towers wherein Tokyo has the most famous Tokyo Skytree. Well for Kyoto, this is their tower.
Kyoto is home to some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites which made me more thrilled about this trip. We allotted two days to cover all the beautiful places but it was not enough. Kyoto has too much to offer and that it cannot fit in two days. When we went to Kyoto, it was weekend and Halloween. A lot of tourists visited Kyoto filling all the lockers at the station, long lines at the bus terminal, jam-packed buses, and considerably congested tourist spots. To save bus fare, Kyoto offers a one-day pass ticket for buses so you could roam around Kyoto with unlimited bus ride, within the flat rate locations though.
The first place we visited is the Kinkakuji – The Golden Temple.
You can’t come near it. A picture of what is inside is posted outside the temple. I did not have the chance to take a photo of it considering that other tour guides are doing some lecture about the tourist spot and I can’t get near it. But from what I saw, I think it is just a statue inside and nothing else. No pieces of furniture or other decorations. Because the temple itself is a preserved decoration representing Japan’s history. No need to see what’s inside.
After passing through the closest spot you could get at the temple, you will follow the track within the site that will lead you to other attractions within it.
At the shrine, you can light up candles for whatever intention you would like to wish, be it for health, family, success, love, luck, or happiness. Of course being an OFW, my family is always on my mind.
After Kinkakuji, we headed for another World Heritage Site – the Toji Temple. We took the wrong bus on our way there. That’s the advantage of the one-day pass, you save some money from taking the wrong bus. We arrived at the temple and from the entrance you could already have a glimpse of the old temple. Had we only allowed ourselves to be pressured with the number of sites we wanted to visit at a very limited time, we would have not taken the time to go inside. But again, ‘If not now, when?’ We went inside and got out happy and satisfied.
The sun has set after we have satisfied ourselves with pictures inside the historical site and views from the inside of the temple (taking pictures isn’t allowed). But just to describe what and how it felt inside, it’s dark, and warm with lights pointed only at the faces of huge Buddha statues and the wall. Buddhists fervently prayed inside and for a non-Buddhist like me, I just sit inside and felt the sincerity of each person praying. And then I ended up praying as well asking Buddha to listen to their intentions and grant them. You just can’t believe that you exist amidst these age-old statues taken cared of for over generations. I would like to have a feel of it at the palm of my hands if not only because of the velvet ropes surrounding the sacred spot.
Back to Kyoto Station, hungry and tired. We treated ourselves with delicious Japanese food before heading to the hostel to spend the night over.
The hostel is called Hats n’ Hats Hostel, quite far from the Kyoto station but still within the flat rate zone (yes the one-day pass was all worth it haha!). I loved the place and its amenities. Unaware of the volume of visitors coming to Kyoto that weekend, we were not able to reserve a private room nor a room exclusive for females. Instead, we were able to reserve bunk beds in a mixed-dormitory type room. It was my first time to share a room (just the room not the bed) with strangers and possibly male but I was able to sleep safe and sound. Besides, each of us might have been scared of what type of person we will share the room with so I guess we were having the same feeling that time. A curtain is provided for privacy and you have to follow house rules – and number one is RESPECT for your neighbors. Toiletry is provided at the shower rooms and comfort rooms. You can even rent a towel if you don’t have one. There is a pantry provided with kitchen utensils and you can also cook rice and food if you have brought something to cook. There is a grocery nearby also just in case you need or crave for something. Complimentary coffee and tea are available as well, just serve yourself. I was only able to capture some photos inside since I have to consider the privacy of other guests. But I really love the coziness of the place and the warm hospitality of the owner. And the best about him is he can speak English! He is so nice that he will help guide you to manage your time visiting Kyoto by telling you which place is nearest and which train to ride. Before leaving, you can get a souvenir from his hostel. Cool right?
Coming up is the Arashiyama site. This is where the famous bamboo forest can be found aside from other shrines and temples you can visit here. We were only able to walk the paths of the bamboo forest and ride the Romantic Train operating since 1991. If you want to ride the train, make sure you arrive early especially on peak seasons as the tickets get sold out early within the day.
Down to our last stop – the Kiyomizu Dera. Before you reach the site you will pass through a long street of shop of goods, food and souvenirs. Just looking at the goods being sold will satisfy your eyes with culture and colors of Kyoto and Japan on a larger scale – very traditional.
It was such a wonderful experience! I want to go back there over and over again. Due to time constraint and volume of travelers we were with we may not have savored each detail of these historic sites. We had to give and take in taking photos at the beautiful spots. We were not able to pass by the wishing well (to name some) due to long lines. The bus station bound for Kyoto station was also a blockbuster hit (haha! sorry but that’s the closest that I could describe it). I did not regret any of those. It was a whole lot of experience. I can always come back whenever I want. And this time I will make sure I will make the most of each heritage site – slowly but surely.