My last week in Japan, spent in Kyoto, has gone by in a blur of colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. I already miss the steamy hot baths, more common outside of the modern mindset of Tokyo. The clean smell of shampoo and hot water, just another scent as you walk down the quiet streets of Kyoto. And Nishiki Market, alive with the smoke of roasting chestnuts, wafts of Christmassy evergreen tree branches from florist shops, fishy and fermented undertones from fresh seafood and pickle shops, and the warm, delicious aroma of frying soymilk donuts.
Although it was the setting for my merciless hours of classes while the rest of the family explored and photographed old temples, I miss our little traditional apartment and the ever present, earthy scent of tatami, and my morning cups of toasty genmaicha. The quiet street, bordered by little stream with its lonely red vending machine, eternally bright and fluorescent, filled with colorfully packaged drinks, awaiting some thirsty customer.
On my adventure out to Kokedera, the moss temple, sitting meditatively writing sutra with brush and inkstone among the too-loud group of German tourists, I listened to the rain swishing and pitter-pattering and beating on the old roof, and the plink, plink of coins dropping into the offering box, and as I traced the curves and lines of rows of ancient kanji, I felt the history, tradition, and culture of the place. I felt myself soaking it up, reveling in the sights and sounds and smells and traditions of Japan.
As I walked down one of the main streets, breathing deep the smell of grilling mochi sweets and savoring little samples of sweet bean paste from the many little sweet shops lining the street, I remembered my love for this place and its quiet yet deep rooted tradition.
I strive to be a raindrop, falling from clouds to sparkling seas, becoming one with my surroundings, absorbed into the culture, before evaporating into the next place, the next cloud, the next rain. Now, experiencing the culture shock of being in Singapore, I appreciate even more the subtle surety of the patterns and culture and balance and beauty of the places I’ve grown to love in Japan.