“If you want to talk about this, we can, and if you just want a distraction, I understand.”
Until this past weekend, I’ve only said this to friends who had had their long-distance relationships broken (it’s not an uncommon occurrence when you study abroad). In the past week, unfortunately, I’ve said this for far more serious reasons.
We process and cope with grief or shock in different ways, and in my experience it requires a balance between reflection and simply moving on. It is healthy to examine and discuss and meditate on the good and bad in our little blue marble of a world. However, when you realize how little you can do to solve something, when dwelling becomes emotional exhaustion and dejection, then it is time to move along. We should do what we can, and sometimes that is simply to live our lives.
But it’s not always simple. We need a way to escape and to re-energize; we can’t just jump-start our heads to get back into the swing of life.
So what do we do? We cuddle in front of Netflix. We finish that bottle of wine. We explore the section of the library that has Nancy Drew books (in English) next to Japanese copies of Stephen King’s “It”.
Fortunately, this week we also had an escape that is even better than films, books or alcohol: a real vacation.
Some friends and I hopped on a night bus for Kyoto, a popular tourist destination known for its abundant historical landmarks and red Japanese maple trees. There are multiple World Heritage Sites, countless shrines and temples, the most kimono rental stores that I’ve ever seen, and pretty good prices for Airbnb (at least if you share with six people).
Thanks to the pouring rain, the swarms of tourists were not as bad as usual — or at least not blocking our path with selfie sticks. We hit some of the must-see attractions, but soon drifted off to find areas that were not quite so populated.
There are few things as tranquil as a temple in the rain in Kyoto. The red maple leaves glisten on the cobblestone streets, and rain trickles through the grooves of the temple roof to drum on the rainbow of umbrellas. When you notice how the light shines between the stalks of bamboo to fall on a small gathering of stone jizo (guardians of travelers, usually dressed in little red aprons), you forget that your shoes and socks are completely soaked.
It’s not always perfectly serene, but that’s sometimes our fault: we imitate Gene Kelly from “Singin’ in the Rain”, compare rhymes and songs from our childhood and attempt to eat a pomegranate that fell from a tree.
Maybe we’re just a bunch of ridiculous tourists, but I can’t think of a better way to experience — and escape from — the world.
Originally published by kyrabe.wordpress.com.