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Sunday, October 15, 2017

And finally, I am in Kyoto, the "Capital City".

Differently from Nara, this city was built to be useful rather than beautiful. Set up as fast as possible, in 10 years, there was no time to make it the aesthetic marvel Nara. What they build was big, functional and effective. And notably, without a single Buddhist temple around.

After a few years after the foundation, two well regulated temples were added at the beginning of the main road. The Imperial Citadel was at the opposite side of the City, at the northern end like in Nara, about four kilometres away.

As a result of this practical design, its plant staid basically unchanged for one thousand years. While all buildings have changed, the city is still basically organized in a rectangle long five kilometres and a half in the north-south direction and four and a half east-west, and divided in blocks by streets that still carry the ancient names, from the Ichijou (first branch) cutting the city right south of the Imperial Palace to the Juujou (tenth branch) at the far south border of the town.

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The city is terribly square, and the sun sets along its east-west branches. Each street, from the small alleys to the large boulevards, runs for kilometers in every direction, up to when the roundness of the earth hides the building from view. Having this depth of view in every direction gives a sensation of an "open city", it feels like it could simply go on forever, and at the same time it never ends, nor begins.

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I arrive at around noon, after having taken the train from Nara. The train trip between Nara and Kyoto is an experience by itself. My friend Kiyoshi will reach me in a couple of days, so I want to see a few things he will surely know and that he won't be interested seeing: the Imperial Palace, the Civic Museum and the Museum of Manga. Because Kyoto seem to have a love affair with visual arts and with mangas in particular, with a faculty of the prestigious local university particularly active in the field.

For example, the first thing that gives me a warm welcome in Kyoto are this three manga girls, part of the project to increase the usage of the newly built metro lines called "moe moe project". Yeah. I am not joking. Kyoto city wants her metro to be "moe moe", the particular kind of cuteness with a hint of young sexuality typical of certain style of mangas and animes. Knowing you wouldn't believe me without a proof, here it is:

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After having dropped the baggage at the hotel, I go straight for the Imperial Palace, or "Go-jou", "the respected place (in the sense 'location')".

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Pitifully, it's Monday, so the main attractions are currently closed, but that's far from being a downer: as I step in the place I realize its size: it's a two kilometres square sized park, with several shrines and temples in its compounds. Visiting it all would require more than one day, so I am fine cleaning some marks today and coming back tomorrow.

The little Shirogumo jinja is surely worth a visit: it's even the center of a little community living around the park.

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Then the Munakata Jinja, which hosts important kamis , including Amaterasu herself!

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And a little pearl, the Umuto Jinja, sitting on a micro island in a mini lake, and yet a a full fledged and fully functional jinja, that has even a "kura", and so, able to host some small matsuri on its own.

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I take the occasion to send my regards and a little prayer to Bensaiten, one of the Gods of the Seven Fortunes, a Cinese Taoist conceptualization of some characteristics of the human soul. She is the only female among them, and represents the arts. It's also the only god in the series having found a solid place in the Japanese Buddhist and Shinto worshipping.

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I decide to spend the rest of the day peeking through the commercial center. After haivng seen Nagoya's and Nara's, I wonder how this could be. Well...

The second thing I realize of Kyoto is that Kyoto doesn't have "a" commercial center. Kyoto is a commercial center. Every boulevard, street, alley is packed with shops of any size and type, selling the most disparate things with the most diverse styles ever. I realize now why when they have a "merchant" character in a movie, anime or even in literature, it has always a Kyoto accent.

Said that, there are some places a bit more commercial-oriented than the rest. The Shijou (fourth branch) is the road cutting the city in half: it's a wide boulevard with all the "modern" shopping opportunities in town.

It runs parallel to the so called Kyouto-daidokoro (kitchen of Kyoto), a place packed with mini-shops selling culinary specialities on the street, mostly raw but also already cooked.

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At the end of the Shijou there's the "proper" commercial center, Teramachi (the City of Temples) that dwarves everything else I have seen, in size, variety and quality.

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Other tourists are bewildered at the Jinjas peeking out from Teramachi, but after having seen the Technojinja in Nagoya, this comes pretty natural to me.

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A little further, there's the Kyoto Dai-jingu, which, despite having a pretty boastful name, is relatively small. However it looks like the local priests have fully understood one underrated experiences that the Shinto religion can offer to locals and foreigners: moe mikos!

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Moe mikos everywhere!

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Moe mikos even on the box for filing prayers to the Kamis!

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Raptured by all this moe mikos, I realize it's almost eight o'clock in the night when I finally decide that I can't go on walking, and while I ask my feet forgiveness for everything I've been asking of them, I start searching for a place to eat. I end up in a takoyaki shop, where I eat the local croquettes based on octopus for the first time. And they are good.

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