The one thing that really strikes you about Kyoto is how remnants of the past are alive in modern day; the ancient-looking shrines found almost as easily as the more juxtaposing vending machines, the wooden carvings of names and businesses scratched and inked with kanji, to the trees that are shades of the most beautiful and seductive reds. There is an underlying sense of wonder and mystery awaiting to be unravelled and a strong feeling of the wise that obviously comes with a city ripe with age and tradition.
On a particularly sunny day in Kyoto, we decided to visit a store that rented kimonos. After about an hour of deliberation we finally decided upon all the elements of our outfit and were ushered upstairs where we were tended to by dressers and hair stylists. In the end, we liked the kimonos so much that we wore them consecutively for two days, transporting ourselves momentarily into the world of geisha beauty and fashion (mind you basic transformations but definitely tourist-approved). The colored fabrics noticeably fleck the city of grey-coated and black-suited locals but hundreds of young men and women like us can be seen walking in these floral fabrics, thankfully without judging stares.
Shuffling in small steps with ‘two-toed’ socks and ‘geta’ (clogs), we reached Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most breathtaking shrines in Kyoto. The journey up the steep hill whereupon it was located, held traces of savoury delights, matcha tea and takoyaki from the street vendors; visually, it was a noisy picture saturated with bright reds, warmly lit lanterns and masses of people
Once we stepped foot inside the gates of the temple, we were mistaken quite a number of times as true geisha. We embarrassingly revealed that we were Australian and you could feel their sense of wonder diminish into what was a laughably ironic situation. We parted feeling like sad cosplayers 😛
As nightfall slowly darkened the temple grounds, golden lights began to light up one by one and it felt like the spirits came alive. We hiked up some more stone steps and found ourselves standing in front of a shop that told love fortunes. As soon as we saw this, our interests piqued and we lined up behind other curious boys and girls to receive a small paper parcel.
Among the three of us, two had good fortunes and one had barely good fortune (if you followed my snapchat you’ll know who was told that ‘he wouldn’t come’). Funnily enough, we visited another shrine later on in our trip and we found that both places foretold the same, blunt precautions. For me, more than anything, these fortunes have made me come to terms with needing to be independent and it’s put a sorely hopeful mind at rest. What was once a myriad of hypotheticals ignited by loneliness, lies an acceptance that things will not change and that I’m better off on my own for now- I mean the gods have spoken! As with tradition, we tied up our paper fortunes to the metal rods which symbolises for good fortunes to multiply or bad fortunes to stay behind without traveling with you.
Undressing the kimonos that night truly made us realise the intricacy and detail required to properly don these silky robes. After noting the processes in order to put them on ourselves the next day, we followed the evening with a movie, watching a very fitting Memoirs of a Geisha into the early morning. It’s safe to say that my love is now fixated on Japanese culture and way of life. I am changed.