Here I am, drinking my cup of Japanese green tea with matcha, hoping that it would spark my writing inspiration. And even though I know it's time for Kyoto story to be shared, I've been postponing writing it for days. Maybe because spring is stealing my focus (so many flowers to be admired/ photographed/ smelled, so many sunny days to be spent in the open, so many fresh vegetables to be cooked, so many dear people to be welcomed in our home), or because my mind is already traveling to small Italian towns and their spring cuisine. However, I also spent the last couple of days researching, because the thing with Japanese names is if you don't write them down at once, chances are, you won't remember them when you sit down to write a post. I think I succeeded in tracking down all the temples and shrines (also, one particular restaurant) that we visited in Kyoto.
Osaka ended up on our itinerary as a more affordable solution to staying in Kyoto, whose temples and shrines we wanted to visit in the peak of the cherry blossom season. We stayed in Osaka for 4 nights, making day trips to Kyoto and Nara, but ultimately we got to enjoy the city more than we expected, considering it our temporary home, and deciding on first soaking in the atmosphere and then sightseeing when we felt like it.
Have you ever heard of Kanazawa? A small Japanese town on the shore of the Sea of Japan, with a population of about 500.000? I haven't, until I started planning our trip to Japan, and it turned out to be one of the sweetest surprises and highlights of our trip! It caught my attention when I read that one of Japan's three most beautiful landscape gardens was actually in Kanazawa, 3 hours train drive west of Tokyo. Since we had a JR train pass for the week, a night in Kanazawa ended up on our itinerary, as the first stop on our 5-day train journey from Tokyo.
In the old town of Nara,
Many ancient Buddhas.
-Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
If I imagine cherry blossoms' scent instead of chrysanthemums' scent (we visited Nara in early spring after all), this poem by 17-th century haiku master paints the picture I have of this town perfectly. It is a picture of the temples and shrines surrounded by thick forest, deer wandering the grounds of Nara park, colorful array of spring blossoms, and the tranquility presiding over it all despite the constant buzz of tourists and worshippers.