I met Kyoto on a Vampire fan site. I’m not a vampire – I was just curious. Kyoto, too, said she wasn’t into sucking blood. We started talking and after months of communications via Skype and email, she convinced me to visit her in Japan. It was a bold move because I was really frightened. What if she really were into vampire stuff? Would she seduce me and suck my blood? What if she turned me into a vampire? These thoughts pervaded my minds for weeks before my flight to Japan. And when it came time to get on that plane, I gave up fear and just said to myself, “Screw it! YOLO!”
Well, I guess this doesn’t qualify as a “blind date” because it was a planned rendezvous, but I barely knew her and to me I really was going in blind. Anyway, after an 8 hours flight and another 2 on the Shinkansen from Tokyo, I arrived at the station, tired and nervous. It was 8 PM. The station was huge. There were so many people speed walking, determined, focused, and unperturbed by my silly presence. Somehow, I found my way out of the station and as I left, I could see behind me a brightly lit sign on the steps, “Welcome to Kyoto.” I knew at that point that she really was a vampire, this was her city, and that I’d be in for the ride of my life.
By sheer luck, I made it to Shunko-In Temple by taking the Hanazono line. Exhaustion came unto me. If not for the growling in my stomach, I would have passed out as soon I put the luggage down in the minimalistic room. I mustered enough energy to roam around the beautiful temple complex and stumbled into Rakuraku restaurant, a 2-story home with the downstairs serving delicious homemade food to tired travelers and potential vampire meals like me. The food was outstanding but Akira, the owner and chef, made the experience memorable. We shared sake and talked for hours. In retrospect, that was the best meal I had in Japan on my short visit.
The next morning I came to before the dew had slipped away. I was unnaturally refreshed. Did Akira give me a magical elixir last night? No matter. I showered and took to exploring the beautiful Shunko-In Temple complex once again. The simplicity of the temples here soothed me and I was overcome with a deep sense of tranquility. As I stood there admiring the scene, a cheery voice shot up my spine, “Hung-San, welcome to my city!” There she was, Kyoto, donned in her beautiful kimono, smiling.
Before I could blink, we had already made it to Tenryuji Temple. What? Did we teleport here? What great sorcery is this! I didn’t know what was happening. I found myself following her as she walked through the beautiful temple. Abundant autumn colors filled my eyes. Every step was a marvel to behold. Mesmerized, I felt oddly at peace. Kyoto took me to an open area in the temple where earth, wind, air and fire played harmoniously. We stayed here for what seemed like an eternity. My mind was empty.
Next, she took me on a walk along the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I felt as though I had been taken back into time. Walking under the tall bamboos made me think of those martial arts movies with samurais slashing down bamboo trees like they were butter. I should really invest in a nice katana and a bamboo grove of my own, I thought.
Coming out of the Bamboo Grove, Kyoto took me to Ogura Pond to watch the ducklings and their mother swim around. Once again the autumn colors bombarded me and I took them in with great pleasure. By all stretch of the imagination, this simple pond isn’t grand or famed at all, but surrounded by Zen temples and the serenity of the Arashiyama area, it fits perfectly.
We crossed the famed Togetsukyo bridge. Small boats cruised this calm stretch of water, carrying passengers seeking a view of the landscape from the boat’s vantage point. Kyoto mused that we should take a boat ride. When I agreed, she giggled and said she was kidding. I was confused.
Instead of doing the boat ride, we went the other way, up the mountain to the Monkey Park. Words cannot describe this wonderful sanctuary. This was the monkeys’ home and we were mere visitors. If you ever wanted to be close enough to get scared, this is the place to be. A small visitor center provided apples and peanuts to excited visitors wanting to feed the monkeys climbing on the other side of the enclosure. Kyoto and I participated – so much fun! Kyoto joked that she wanted to keep me as her monkey pet. I hoped she was joking.
Alas, we left the Monkey Park on a high, and as before, time flew by and suddenly we were standing in front of the famous Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine. Sorcery once again! Anyway, the throng of people that started the upward hike with us slowly dropped off. At the top of the trail, we found ourselves masters of the world. I stared in amazement at the city vista before me. And all along the trail, the densely populated red torii reminded me of the long history of this fine nation. You, too, can commission a red torii to be placed in your honor. “All it takes it money,” Kyoto said, ”or yummy blood.” I pretended not to hear her say that.
Evening came and we hurried down the trail. Hunger once again reared its delicious head. Kyoto took me to a street vendor who gave us a giant helping of yakisoba noodles the likes I had never seen before. It was too good and I ate it with the fury of a raging river. I was happy. I turned to thank Kyoto for an amazing day and that’s when it happened. She bit me on the neck. Befuddled as I was, Kyoto giggled, “You are not ready.” And poof she was gone!
The next thing I knew, I was on an airplane back to Seattle. What did she mean by me not being ready? Is my blood not yummy enough for her vampiric fangs? Whatever it was, I intend to find out. I’ll be back, Kyoto! You do not bite me in the neck and follow it up with a cryptic message like that and think you’ll get away with it! I’ll be back!
Note: No vampires were harmed in the production of this article.
GPSmyCity Kyoto Giveaway
Would you like to go on a date with Kyoto as well? I’ve partnered with GPSmyCity to give away 20 free copies of this incredibly useful app (regularly priced at $4.99). GPSmyCity provides self-guided city walks so you can be your own tour guide. With over 470 available cities in the database, you’ll be able to explore each city at your own pace, at a fraction of the cost.
To enter for a chance to win one of the 20 free copies, all you have to do is comment below and tell me your experience with Kyoto. Or if you haven’t been to Kyoto yet – what you would like to do there. The deadline for entering this contest is next Monday, March 7, 2016. You will be contacted via the email you provided while commenting with the code to redeem your copy of GPSmyCity Kyoto (if you win).
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of GPSmyCity Kyoto as well.
Travel on my friends!