Written Upon the Mountain
Me and my sister’s next big trip was to Kyoto for a hike along Higashiyama, the mountain ridge that forms the eastern boundary of the city. We ascended from the mountain called Daimonji.
Hiking the eastern mountains of Kyoto is something I have done so many times, each time different. I will never forget my first climb up and down Daimonji- December 1st, 2008 it was. The seasons turn later in Japan, so back then the trees were still brilliantly red and orange. This lush rainy-season verdance was something new.
I didn’t take any pictures of the hike itself, because with rare exception, forests never turn out right on my camera. All the depth perception is lost, and an intricate tapestry of green turns into a big 2-D mess. I can, however, show you where we came back to flat land.
This is Nanzenji, a 13th century Zen temple with a relatively quiet history in a quiet place. We came down through the back door after closing time, so couldn’t see any of the monastery gardens.
Nanzenji’s most oddly unique feature is an aqueduct built in the 1880s or so as part of Kyoto’s modernized new water system, just running through the temple grounds in its way from Lake Biwa across the eastern mountains.
The surviving structures from that age when Japan was emulating the West convey a certain elegance, as if it were not technical and practical matters but art and philosophy that the builders were learning when they went to work in that time of change. In an odd way, the aqueduct feels as if it belongs in this temple six centuries its senior.
In unrelated news, I have made my plans to return to America for a good two weeks. It seems like I’ve barely begun here in Japan, but I’ve never been away from family and old friends for half as long ever before. It’s time to meet with folk, now that my job is on summer break. I’ll love seeing my parents, my sister I just hung out in Japan with, and little Muu bunny. I need to go bowling with my buddies. And I’m honestly excited to see old Milwaukee with new eyes.