Living in Kyoto as a Traveler

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  • Shinobu Nakai
  • 福森クニヒロ
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  • Since I went to a junior college there, Kyoto has always been a familiar city to me. Whenever I had time between lectures, I would enjoy walking around the city with my friends, wondering which shrine or temple I should visit today. I was working as a model at the time, and there were many shoots in Kyoto, so I would go to Tofukuji Temple and other shooting locations by myself. I guess I had developed a good sense of place in that sense.

  • When I thought about where to raise my children after getting married and having babies, I thought it would be good to have a place close to my husband’s and my parents’ house where three generations could interact with each other. I thought that the children would be able to relax somewhat if there were other people around, rather than just the parents.

  • That’s why we chose Kyoto, which is in the middle of both our parents’ homes. When I actually lived there, I realized once again that it was a city that had the functions and culture of a city while being close to nature. The seasonal events have been passed down from generation to generation and are very interesting.

  • Kyoto is a place where you can feel the four seasons, play in nature, and experience history without going out of your way. By experiencing these things together with my children, I was able to see things differently from when I was a student. Even after living here for eight years, there is still so much I don’t know, and it makes me happy to think that I can experience it firsthand.

Spending Your Daily Life in Kyoto, Where You Can Feel 1,000 Years of Activity in the Capital

  • Since I started living in Kyoto, I have been waking up early. My life itself has changed. I can watch the colors of the mountains change as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. It seems strange to think that we are seeing the same scenes that people in the Heian period (794-1185) were seeing. When I look at the writings of Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu, I can nod my head and say, “This is that place.” It is completely dark at night in Kyoto. I hope that my children can feel for themselves the fear of the darkness at night, where something might come out.

  • There are many small stores around our house, such as a tofu store nearby where the tofu is ready at 9:00 a.m., and a bakery where you can buy freshly baked bread to eat. Such relationships with neighbors still remain in Kyoto. I buy vegetables from farmers who come to town to sell them, and cook them while they are fresh.

  • I go to Shiga Prefecture, where my husband’s parents live, once every two weeks to help my mother in-law farm. When you start to grow your own vegetables, you realize that you cannot resist nature. For example, in March, we plant potato seeds, and when they grow, we pick them and eat them. We don’t have to worry about the lack of water or sunlight. It rains, the sun shines, and they grow. I learned through growing vegetables that waiting is important, and I came to think that raising children is the same.

  • I want my children to do what they want, but I also worry about their studies. But even if we don’t rush to teach them, children can think for themselves, allocate their time, and acquire various senses. I’m really glad that I decided to live in this city at this age when I can enjoy such a slow flow of time.

The Place for My Future That I Have Been Looking for on Every Trip

  • My love for nature may have been influenced by the family trips we had when I was a child. Every summer vacation, we would take a trip by car from Osaka to my mother’s home in Yamagata, together with the rabbits, turtles, and birds that lived in our house at that time. I really enjoyed the trip to the north along the Sea of Japan side looking at the scenery.

  • Come to think of it, I have always liked places with clean water since then. I was attracted to the Sogisui water spring in Gujo Hachiman, Gifu that dates back in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and the Fukidashi Springs of Mt. Yotei in Hokkaido. I guess the reason why I was attracted to Kyoto is because of its clean water. There is a lot of water under the city, and they use it for dyeing and making sake. I feel the mystery of history.

  • There are many wonderful places not only in Kyoto city but also in Miyama and Rakuhoku. Thatched roofs and other nostalgic landscapes are still preserved, and the river water is clear. The time I spend observing creatures in the river with children has become irreplaceable.

  • Come to think of it, I used to wonder every time I went on a trip, “Where will I live in the future?” I always think from the perspective of the people who live there. Wherever I go, I look at the market or the morning market. I’m interested in what people eat and do in their daily lives. I guess I viewed the trips as a way to find my place in the world.

  • Interestingly, my son has already decided where he wants to live in the future. We went to Palau as a family a few years ago, and it was an interesting trip. My son has liked to see fish since he was small, and he seems to have fallen in love with the environment of Palau, with its nature and lots of fish. He says he will live in Palau in the future (laughs).

  • Every time I travel, I choose a place to stay according to my purpose. For example, if I’m going to Tokyo, I’ll stay at a high-rise hotel with a beautiful view, and if I’m going to an island, I’ll stay at a local bed and breakfast and make friends with the family there. In Palau, I would stay in a single-story cottage where I can go to the sea right away. It’s also fun to choose a hotel according to my trip while looking at a guidebook.

  • I have visited Kyoto Tokyu Hotel several times for business meetings and private occasions. I like the quiet and relaxing atmosphere. I like the way it leads from the ground level entrance and down to the lobby floor. When you get off the escalator, the courtyard spreads out in front of you and you can hear the sound of water. Although it’s very close to Kyoto Station, as soon as you get in, you start wondering, “Where is this place?” It’s like flipping a switch of your mind. It feels so new that I was surprised to hear that it has been 40 years since it opened. There are fun and exciting things to do in the city of Kyoto, so the cozy feeling of coming back to the hotel from sightseeing and being able to cool down is appealing to me.

My Favorite Places Are the Botanical Garden and Byodoin Temple, And I Would like to Learn More about Kyoto

  • Kyoto Botanical Gardens is close to my house, so it is a place of relaxation where I often go with my family. Rather than pursuing artificial beauty, there is a subtle ingenuity in how to make the plants look natural. It is spacious and the trees are growing freely. There is a feeling that people are relaxing and enjoying their time here. The view from the botanical garden and the style of the oldest botanical garden in Japan are preserved as they are, and you can feel the ease of the town.

  • The Hosho-kan museum at Byodoin in Uji is also my favorite place. It makes me happy when I see the precious figures of various Buddhas riding on clouds.

  • I realize that it is true what they say, “Kyoto people like new things.” As a city with a long history, it is also sensitive to new things and never stops evolving and innovating. I find that contrast interesting.

  • Even though I am living in Kyoto, I still feel as if I am somehow enjoying the journey. I live my life thinking that I would like to sit back and take a deeper look at this historical city.