I have officially purchased a plane ticket back to America. I’ve officially notified my real estate agent that I’ll be vacating my Kyoto apartment. February 15th is the day.
I’m so filled with emotions both positive and negative that I’m really not sure which is the dominant.
One half of me is overjoyed to see my family and friends again, to return to the place where I grew up, to regain access to real hamburgers and pizzas, and to be able to once again afford DVD’s right off the shelf. But the other half is nowhere near ready for this Japan portion of my life to end.
Before I came here, I sort of assumed that the novelty of living abroad would eventually wear off. It hasn’t. But I guess I can’t go on being a student forever, and who knows, maybe I’ll end up right back here working for some high-tech firm in Tokyo. We’ll just have to wait and see what the cards have in store for me.
But for now, I’m taking a week off of homework and responsibilities to spend the week riding bikes around Kyoto with my mom! Unfortunately she’s a bit on the sick side having just spent several weeks in China (studying traditional Chinese medicine, no less) so the pace had to be slowed to a bit below the norm. Not to worry. We still covered an excellent amount of ground.
Plus we were lucky enough to happen upon not one but two light-ups during her short four-day stay. The first was at Kiyomizu Dera (aka “big-famous-Kyoto-Temple #2,527). While riding our bikes around Gion, I just happened to catch a glimpse of a poster – saying that today would be the last day of this fall’s light-up. I didn’t have my tripod and thus wasn’t able to get any non-blurry pictures, but for an idea of what Kiyomizu looks like during such an event check out a shot from April’s cherry-blossom festival.
The second, and far more spectacular light-up, was Arashiyama. This could just be because I’ve already been to three light-ups at Kiyomizu. But more likely it really was just a lot more awesome.
Why? Sure, it had the same illuminated trees and spotlights as Kiyomizu. But it had so much more. The entire bridge, the entire mountain, endless lanterns of endless types, and bamboo forests – all illuminated and color-coordinated to create a dream-like atmosphere. Even though I was just there, the pictures are still pretty hard to believe.
Leave it to the Japanese to take a place already as beautiful as Arashiyama and make it even more incredible.
Other than the light-ups I took my mom to all the usual places – Gion, Fushimi Inari, Heian Jingu, etc, etc, etc. We even hit up a few areas new to me as well – including a ride on the Arashiyama “romantic steam train” which follows the Katsura river through a winding gorge and across Kyoto’s surrounding mountains to the part of Japan I like to call “rice-field country.”
But alas, my short break from real-life must soon come to an end…as the shuttle arrives 12:20 tomorrow morning to take her back to Kansai Airport and then to Los Angeles. I will remain here to begin my large essay that I’ve been putting off for the past three weeks…and to await Kyoto’s next change of scenery: snowy rooftops!