PART 4: CALM IN KYOTO
After seven time-warped days, my time in Tokyo reached its end. I made my way to the Shinkansen (bullet train) with my collection of Tokyo Turtle toys in tow.
The pulse of the city rushed me towards the train station. I hurried through the streets in a rapid fury. But, why was I racing against the clock? I had no set agenda. Next on my itinerary, Kyoto - a mellow and restful place. I slipped into a calm state of mind in preparation.
My pace slowed as the velocity of Tokyo zoomed by. But as if the toy quest wasn't ready to let me go, what suddenly appeared right before me? One final Tokyo toy store.
I snuck inside, leaving my girlfriend with a strange alien to guard our luggage.
The little shop had a few rows of merchandise that ran from the floor to the ceiling. My legs got a workout with a repetitive routine that had me crouching low and then stretching high. Luckily, the exercise paid off and I found a Japanese TMNT figure!
He's Road Ready Leo in America, but in Japan? Machine Leonardo! With no hesitation, I plucked a few yen from my wallet and bought the figure.
With this purchase, the toy landscape of Tokyo had been conquered. The pursuit, and partying, had drained my stamina. The ceaseless frenzy left me running on fumes. I needed to slip away before the intoxicating allure of this city swallowed me forever. All aboard the bullet train.
As I traveled with my back to Tokyo, I eyed my latest prize to kill the time. Fellow passengers peeked over their seats, spying as I inspected the Japanese packaging.
Their curiosities grew when I cracked the box open. Sounds of 20 year old plastic and cardboard being forced apart rattled through the aisles.
Faster than the bullet train, a batch of stickers slid out of the box and into my lap.
I burrowed deeper in the box and found a foldable pamphlet - all in Japanese. I gently thumbed through each page - admiring the toys that were featured.
The bullet train arrived in Kyoto, Japan's cultural capital. Although it's referred to as a "city," it's like no city I've ever visited. Instead of unrelenting car horns, peaceful insects create music-like melodies that carry through the streets. Skyscrapers have been replaced with towering bamboo trees. Surrounding mountains, rivers, and quaint alleys create a charming urban environment.
My itinerary was the boat that navigated me through the serene waters of Kyoto. I peacefully paddled through, exploring the city with carefree affection. Every district offered an opportunity to rejuvenate the spirit. What are the choices? So much to choose from...
Hike through the tranquil Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
Take a stroll beneath the Bamboo Grove of Arashiyama.
Hop on the subway to Nara, a mystic place where gentle deer roam amongst the people.
Some bow to visitors, asking to be fed. But, they showed me no respect.
While trying to feed one, my girlfriend got more than she bargained for when one took a bite of her butt.
Praise Buddha at the Todaiji Temple (I threw him a big "thank you" for all my TMNT toy discoveries too).
The reset button of my brain had been pressed. These calming activities restored a much-needed balance. Kyoto truly soothes the soul.