清水寺

Our first day in Kyoto was hardly going to end with just one spectacular site. In fact, I'm sure as the day went on we all began to wonder if it would end at all.

Regardless, our second destination was the must-see Kiyomizu-dera, "Pure Water Temple". It's a grand old thing, built atop one of the mountains encircling Kyoto. The nearest bus stop will put you at the bottom of a long and narrow street crowded vendors hawking a hodgepodge of trinkets aimed at tourists, foreign and Japanese alike.

I visited Kiyomizu some three years ago when I first came to Japan. This was well before I had put it in my head to learn Japanese but I was thankfully being tour-guided by a gaggle of girls from a nearby college who were all majoring in that great imperial language of the world we all know and love, English. Those girls weren't the only students in the area that day. The streets were inundated with black and white uniforms.

Kiyomizudera street inundated with japanese school kids

Japanese schools treasure field trips and our visit to Kiyomizu coincided with ten busloads of kids getting dropped off to navigate the narrow street up to the temple.

School kids and teachers at Kiyomizu

A group of students accosted us, although it may be more appropriate to say that they timidly approached us and asked, out of the blue, why we came to Kiyomizu-dera that day. Their teacher, undoubtedly with a smirk on his face, had sent them on their field trip to the famous temple with a bit of homework. They were suppose to grab onto a foreigner and ask a few basic questions in English and write down the response. After the questionnaire we all amicably agreed to photos.

It wasn't another twenty steps before we went through the same process all over again.

More inquisitive students

And then again.

Another batch of students who hunted down a foreign tourist

And again. Something about being blonde white guy whose height put him well above the crowd had me drawing the kids to us like crazy. After finally making it inside the temple's grounds we noticed a group of kids glancing our way and pointing fingers at each other. Even without hearing any of it, it was clear that the argument was something along the lines of "You ask them!" "No you!" "Nuh-uh, you!"

So, armed with a single Japanese word my guides told me, "Homework?", I walked over to the group and for the first time that day got the upperhand on a group of students. They screamed and gasped appropriately our role reversal.

More recently

Do you see how I have these stories to tell about my first time going to these places? I feel like I don't, so much, with the going around with my family. I was so determined to have them see all the sites in the little bit of time they were here that we never stopped for breath. It was very much a go, go, go mentality. That can be seen in how long it's taken me to put up the blog posts regarding them -- I have trouble coming up with the stories to go with the photos, and wait endlessly for something that will not come. It can also be seen in this photo of my mother, half dead from exhaustion a week into their stay in Japan.

My exhausted mother

Are they glad they went? I don't know. I sure hope so, but I'm also sure they aren't interested in coming back to this country, which I feel reflects more on me than anything else.

But ah, well, if nothing else I hope they went home with some good photographs.

Water dripping down a chain at Kiyomizu dera, looking out over Kyoto in the background

The weather those first few days wasn't the best, but the rain certainly fit with the theme at "Pure water temple".

Crowded and obtuse

There's a saying in Japanese: 清水の舞台から飛び降りる。Literally, "to jump off Kiyomizu's stage", and its not hard to intuit the feeling of "to take the plunge" from that. It's clear where a saying like that could come from with a good look at the massive beams holding the temple up.