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  • Writer's pictureJackie Almeida

Sweet Kyoto

This trip was unique. Japan by itself is a special place. I have visited only two cities that make me fall in love with everything  imagined when I will go back there and get to know other places. Kyoto is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I do not know if it's right but for me is one of the most special cities I have ever visited. Kyoto is 452,5 km from Tokyo, with the fastest train on  the world you get there in around 2 hours. It is a city with more than 1.5 million inhabitants. It has scenarios protected by Unesco that are the heritage of humanity. I was only there for a weekend and wanted to stay longer. That part of my trip was more spiritual. I could learn more about Japanese culture through religions. The main ones are Buddhism and Shintoism. I always had admiration for Buddhism and I am following many of its principles and now I got to know more about the Shinto religion. Most people I talked to define themself as followers and admirers of these two beliefs at the same time. Another positive point to Japanese culture. While in the middle east religious believers fight to prove which religion is the right one, in Japan most of people have two. I have no religion, I believe that they all have several points in common but different interpretations. I am a fan of the holy books like the Bible, the Koran is one of the most beautiful books I've read where the base is just love, I like spiritism and make use of the good things that each of them has. Religion without wisdom can even cause war, which we all know. I enjoyed  the Shinto religion, even though I confess I did not have much knowledge about it. And talking to a local I found out a bit more about it and loved what I heard. The Shinto is the traditional spirituality of Japan, according to them, to us here in the West would be a religion. The word Shinto means "way of the gods" as they don't have only one God to worship. Their gods are  mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees and rocks. The cult of this religion is nature. That's when I identified myself with it. We are a part of nature, when we become able to respect all living beings  on our planet  that is when we will become enlightened beings, in my opinion. I had the opportunity to pray in both Buddhist temples and Shinto one. They told me that when you enter the Shinto temple you move to another dimension, to a spiritual world where I had the opportunity to meditate and thank. Japan's good is that all people are like an encyclopedia, ask a stranger on the street a simple question and it will turn into a free lesson on culture. How not to love it then? Kyoto is considered to be the cradle of Japanese cuisine. Japan's finest restaurants are there.Arashiyama Kitcho  is recognized as the number 1. As I like to eat, I had to visit it too. Always traditional, as I had explained to you in my last post about Tokyo. Once again they have adapted to my vegan lifestyle and prepared me the best dishes. But what I liked most was a restaurant called Monk, a restaurant with capacity for about 15 people located in Sakyo-ku, an area surrounded by temples and super friendly people. Simple place with a good energy and with only two employees, a waitress and the chef Yoshihiro Imai who offered us their Japanese specialties and delicious pizza. Yes, pizza! Made with natural and vegan ingredients for me. All made with great love and it was very tasty. I  had already spoken to you that I am fascinate with the way the Japanese have to work, but seeing a chef  in the kitchen is a gift, even the way he cut a tomato looks like an art. Better than this was being able to witness the daily routine as a chef. We woke up at 6am and we've headed to the municipality of Sayko-ku. We visited the first local market. All organic! Most people who work there are families. Farmers in age group 50-70 years or more, since the Japanese do not look their age. Eating healthy is the fountain of youth. Hardly anyone spoke English but communicated through gestures, smile, they liked my hair but by the Japanese education did not try to touch, as it happen in the most places I visit. The chef was looking for vegetables and fresh spices that make the Japanese food so delicious. I could talk to some people who spoke English, they were even more friendly than in Tokyo. This means maximum level of sympathy. We talked about life, they showed me their pets, invited me to events, take pictures with me, and all that in less than 20 minutes lol. This is travel! If you allow yourself  and connect with people to listen to them and learn more and more about their culture, it makes the trip interesting and it  will turn you into a world citizen. The adventure continued in Ohara, where we have visited an another market. I got some spices to try to inspire me and make a dish based  on my experience in Japan. I learned to make organic, home made tofu without any preservatives and chemicals that I do not like  and that's why I don't consume. But now I've learned I'm going to try and hope it will work out so I can share it with you very soon. In the stalls of the fair each vegetable section has a picture of the farmer that planted and harvested them. Whenever I'm eating I like to think of a way of gratitude to the person who grows  that food, and  there I was able to put a face into my thanks. What a cute detail! We were also to visit an okra plantation, carrot, eggplant ... They taught me things about agriculture, and udo in this scene blessed  by God surrounded by mountains and a radiant sun, which made me happier since Tokyo was always cloudy . Walk around  the streets of the ancient city of Kyoto on a weekend makes you feel like you were settled in time of a century ago. Many people go out dressed in traditional clothes. Women of neatly combed hair with their kimonos and sandals (shoes name) but  walking with smartphones in their hands lol. It was very cute bein able to experience it. But they do not dress like this always. There is a campaign to protect Japanese culture where people who go dressed in the traditional dress on the weekends  get a number of discounts. Even myself,  I got dressed but the discount was only valid for Japanese lol. Been there I wanted to dress like them and I could not miss this opportunity. But that outfit is  harder to use. Had to put a band to tighten my chest, that would not let me breathe or move my arms, and I wasn't able to walk in that shoes. I do not know how they can do it, you get all tight, although they are smaller than me, maybe they don't  suffer as much lol. I could see some geishas still in today's day  "working or serving". Dialoguing with a Japanese I wanted to know more about it if there is still a tradition, if they receive money by depriving their life and live as a geisha. He politely told me that the tradition still follows today and that most geishas begin at early age. He added that in the last century it was considered that geishas were sacred and that the man who was with a geisha sexually could consider to have been in paradise. As I am curious I tried to insist to know how is it now. Politely evaded and told me that he is not sure and they are forbidden to ask them that. Being an admiring and respecting the culture I preferred to stay with the unknown. Each culture has to be respected. Kyoto was so sweet. People soft to speak, to walk with. Education always stood out and the willingness to serve, that I  imagined to be so throughout the whole country. I could not be more happy to have lived all these experiences in a such a short time. When I have a child the first advice I will give to it will be for him to travel! No matter the way, whether tourist, working, volunteering. - Yes! If you do not know and live by giving excuse that you don’t have money to travel, you go to do the volunteer work, you will be helping out and getting to know our interesting world. I will say to my children to travel because (so they spend all the money on tickets and won’t have money to buy drugs, I'm kidding) by traveling you get to know the world we live in, our cultural differences, religions, tastes and all that seems to be so different, but deep down it has the same essence. We are human and we can find happiness in the small things, especially when we are traveling because we are not worried, we are relaxed and everything looks good. We nurture our intellect and we become better people. But if instead  to enjoy your are complaining  on a trip , then I guess it's time to review on your concepts. The best things of the trips are not in the places, but in your eyes :) Arigato Kyoto❤️ 🎎🇯🇵

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