100 Happy Days / Day 60: Day 2 in Kyoto

In Kyoto, it can be easy to experience shrine/temple fatigue after a while as there are just so many of them scattered along over the city.

On the last trip to Kyoto, Kenneth and I visited most of the key attractions you’d find in Lonely Planet or any other guidebook, so this time round I decided not to make temple visits part of my itinerary. But then Thomas’s house is just 5 minutes from Daitokuji Temple! This temple is quite a departure from the typical ones as it is not made up of a single postcard shot of a key building, but one made out of different smaller buildings and gardens.

Built by a warlord in the 1500s, the aesthetics and tranquility betrayed little of the aggression the owner must have possessed. Or perhaps time has washed away all traces of human endeavor and left just the peaceful, innocent shell of this temple building standing there, without love or hate, happiness or sorrow.

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We filled ourselves up to the brim with curry at a diner playing vintage English music. Thomas said he hasn’t been here for some time as the couple who works here often quarrel even when customers are around. Well, looks like it really is a good day – no plates flying around or anything!

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I love to cycle and the weather is perfect. Sunny yet cooling at the same time! So I borrow Thomas’s bicycle and set off for my afternoon adventure, retracing the routes we took the last time we were here in Kyoto.

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Feeling the wind softly caressing my face, I remember those wonderful times and start to miss him. Joy is really meant to be shared with people we love.

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I head to Robert Yellin Gallery, whose owner runs a very informative blog on Japanese pottery. I have been reading his blog and I am so excited to visit as I know he has a very well curated collection. Nothing like holding and admiring a great work of art in your hands!

Finding his gallery is like a scavenger hunt, but I like this just fine! It is a journey to seek; and in that journey, having a little mystery and surprise enhances the experience. Partially hidden from view with overgrown trees, the house sits above the other residences, looking like it’s trying to secretly creep away from this world. From what Robert said, someone famous used to live here and threw the best tea parties – everyone who was anyone in Kyoto would be invited. Looking out of the full screen window, I can imagine the scenes of merry and drinking. Sounds like a place Mr Gatsby would have fit in. Or not… different kinds of parties I imagine!

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I step in, and marvel instantly at all the pieces on display – some by really famous “national living treasure” potters, and others by award winning next-generation potters.

I take my time to lift, feel and contemplate their works. At the same time, I eavesdrop on Robert’s commentary as he attends to various serious collectors. The potter who has a single-minded pursuit to create a kind of blue in his glazes. Another who created the imagery of Mount Fuji reflected in the waters inside a tea bowl. Yet another who subtracts from his clay rather than add to it. I soak it all in. Everytime I see a particularly powerful piece, I cannot help but wonder how it was possibly made and for a precious moment, whisper to myself that perhaps one day I can do the same. Some of the techniques are far advanced beyond what I know yet, but it is what excites me. The endless possibilities of fire, earth and water, and our human hands.

Deep in artistic contemplation, my brain suddenly has a spasm and out of nowhere I am overwhelmed by a craving for churros. Yes, those amazing churros we had on our last trip that have since been forever seared in my mind. After kicking myself in the foot (but careful not to break any pots) for not writing down all those important addresses and directions, I cross my fingers and hope that it is at least somewhere near Teramachi, where I am going next to buy some green tea!

Lupicia has the most beautiful contemporary tea shop and I love to open and smell the numerous varieties of tea selections available. The last round we bought some and drinking “Happiness” made us happy indeed! After selecting the tea, you can also request to try the flavors. 2 exact minutes for the hot water to interact with the leaves before drinking. It was during this wait when the lady informed me that there is a branch at Great World City in Singapore! No matter, I bet the Kyoto store here is still nicer.

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Pulling as many frayed strands of memories out from the recesses of my mind, I finally found churro star! Alas, it was closed for the day. Why, oh why? I decide that I shall not be greedy. There is still one last day left in Kyoto!

“I will be back,” I said to the closed shutters.

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It is time to cycle back home and I return to my favorite Kamo River. I have visited parts of Kamo river every single evening of Kyoto for this and the last trip – it is quickly becoming a tradition for me! I cycle slowly, soaking in the scenery around me. I see people walking their dogs. A girl practising her horn. A group having a picnic. Couples strolling. Children returning home. And, then.. an eagle! I looked around and saw at least ten of these majestic creatures circling in the air. It was an awesome sight.

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Wednesday is English night at Cafe Froush, where Thomas works as the host. For 2 hours, people of all nationalities stream into this little cafe to have a drink and hone their English in a relaxed environment where you can talk about anything under the sun. I am going to tag along tonight.

I really like the housemates as they are both so nice! Shuntsuke offers to lend us his bicycle so that Thomas and I don’t have to make the 50 minute walk to the cafe. It is so much more enjoyable cycling there!

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Tonight, we meet 4 Japanese, and a German. It was fun chatting and I discover that Marina Bay Sands is fast overtaking the Merlion as THE icon of Singapore to the Japanese. Not hard to imagine why! I feel a little sad that the spectacular MBS is a casino building though. If only this towering icon lent itself to something better than gambling.

The night is soon over and the tip jar looks nice and full. It is a great way for international students to earn money and it has been a good night for Thomas. I’m happy for him!

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