The day after: Kyoto

Since yesterday, it has been difficult to stop wearing my pilgrim clothes and start being a regular “traveller”.

I decided to visit the old capital of Japan, Kyoto, which always fascinated me. As a history freak, I visited both the Nijō Castle, former seat of the Tokugawa Shoguns, and the old Imperial Palace.

Kyoto is also home to more than 2000 religious buildings, between Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. It’s a city truly suspended between modern influences and traditional heritage.

The Inari shrine, at night. An impressive site, dating back to the 8th century.
The shrine has also a path that goes through hundreds of torii (shinto-style gates).

I found the Imperial Palace more charming than the Nijō Castle, with its impressive gardens and story.

One of my main objectives, here, was also to try some good food, namely Kobe beef and sushi.

Yesterday night I had dinner at a famous steak house, with a 300-year old traditon and supposedly a favourite of the Shogun himself. At the end of the meal, the bill turned out to be as monumental as the taste of the meat. No regrets.

A view on the imperial gardens, close to the former private quarters of the emperor.

I also found a hidden, family-run, sushi restaurant that was absolutely fantastic. The different nigiri were very addictive and I felt like I could eat the whole restaurant.

The son of the owners spoke good English and was able to recommend me different kinds of both nigiri and sake.

Besides the excellent food, I’ve been experiencing a sort of identity crisis. If I am not a pilgrim, then what am I? Mainly a tall guy with funny clothes and a weird hat.

On Shikoku all the locals could recognize me as a pilgrim and made me feel part of the community. The looks on their faces was much different than the ones I got here. In a big city like Kyoto, nobody seems to care about who you are and what your story is.

I felt like I wanted to tell every Japanese person I met how happy I was and how beautiful of an experience it was to discover their culture and traditions.

Tomorrow this feeling won’t change, I alrewdy know it, and I will just have to live with it. My next stop is Osaka, where I am going to spend my last night in Japan.

After that, back to Berlin. With a mind that is again calm and serene, I will keep close to my heart all those good people who either helped me in Shikoku or supported me from their home.

Thank you.