Is this what getting old is going to be about? I had an all day/almost all night coughing jag yesterday that wore me and my poor husband out. You’re going to have to do something about that, he told me grumpily. No dah, I replied with irritation.
I stopped taking a prescribed cortisone inhaler today which I decided was triggering the coughing fits, so today I am coughing less. But before I became too frisky, the pain from my hip bursitis turned back on this afternoon as I was starting out for a walk in my Kyoto neighborhood. Needless to say, my stroll was curtailed.
Time to get out the advil before my walk and stop talking about my complaints. What smarty pants said to me “You can’t afford a negative thought”? I had a few too many these the last two days. I’m here to celebrate spring and beauty in the city that has made an art out of it!
This afternoon we rolled smoothly into Kyoto on the bullet train after spending two nights in Tokyo. I am always struck by the contrast between the new capital and the ancient one of Kyoto. There’s the obvious difference of size, but more than that, it’s about scale. Tokyo is reaching for the sky these days, covered with new high rises being built just about everywhere you look. In Kyoto, (almost) the entire environment seems integrated and grounded.
Earthquake concerns are somhow overcome by state of the art engineering. The huge buildings are impersonal, mostly office space, sometimes housing hotels as well, but with no distinctiveness that I could identify or admire. Tokyo can be slick, cutting edge and fun, but after a few days I am generally relieved to pull out of it and head south to Kyoto. The big city doesn’t feed my spirit except for it’s preoccupation with good design. Flash is fun and youthful but grows easily tiresome.
I know Kyoto quite well now, so there’s no element of surprise when I arrive here as there used to be. Rather, it’s a sense of comfort I feel upon entering. The small pots of seasonal flowers placed carefully at the doorways remind me that time is taken to appreciate nature here. Once again, I am sure that scale plays a large role. The city is mostly built of two story buildings with a few buildings, like errant toddlers, escaping those boundaries, but not very many and not by dozens of stories.
There’s a strong sense of place here with temples and shrines appearing around every corner. Their significance plays a constant role in the events of the city. They are power centers, no doubt, reminding me immediately that I’m no longer in the USA. Japanese are said not to be religious but when you enter a shrine it’s easy to see that the ancient gods are respected and play a role in their contemporary life.
The Japanese people have a strong sense of purpose. There’s not a lot of lolling about or screwing around. They all seem devoted to their jobs and determined to do the best they can in them. They walk quickly. They listen intently when you speak to them. They are considerate and kind. They do seem to embody a kinder, gentler strain of humanity, at least in this time and place! It’s a welcome change from the nastiness rampant on the home front.
As always, our dear Japanese friend has prepared seasonal welcome flowers to greet us when we open the door of our apartment. It’s these moments that mean the most to me and speak stronger than any words.