A forty-five minute train ride out of Kyoto will take you to a park where the squirrels have been replaced with friendly deer who bow for treats. I promise!
As much as I adore all animals, I normally don’t like to see them locked up in places like the zoo. I once visited the zoo in Seoul, and 10 minutes in, I was already looking for the exit. The polar bear’s skin and fur hung off him like an oversized t-shirt. His pool was just that, a pool with white paint to make it “feel” like the north pole. It was all wrong. The eyeless monkey topiary made from what appeared to be plastic brown twigs (I guess it was more like a “fauxpiary”) that hung by the entrance should have been a warning of what was to come. After I left, I couldn’t bring myself back to another zoo.
I did have a Japanese roommate once who showed a great deal of affection to animals. Maybe Japan was a little different.
The 1,200 sika deer that roam around the park freely seemed happy. I mean, after all, these guys are considered sacred.
The deer knew where to wait for the goods, but the treat vendors shooed away the beggars with fans and rolled up paper. These peanut butter-scented wafer disks were sold for 150 Yen and could almost guarantee five minutes of popularity amongst the deer.
I held tight to my handful of treats as a herd of deer gathered around, pulling at my shorts and bowing for attention. Overwhelmed, I ran up the hill, away from my new friends. I decided I’d find a more patient group of deer to share the rest of my wafers with.
Instead, I found a bunch of uninterested deer hidden away from the main walkway. I held my hand out, but only one of the seven or so deer accepted the treat. These were obviously the organic eaters of the bunch. I imagined the guy who took my wafer probably had to deal with a lot of crap after that, so I felt bad afterwards.
Dejected, I broke the remaining treats into several small pieces and gave them to the same eager group who tried to depants me and made my way back to the train station.
I appreciated the fact that the park wasn’t flooded with tourists. It felt like any other park, but instead of little squirrels running around, this one had deer.
In Kyoto, it seemed I wasn’t too far from some bit of nature.
The buildings and houses were lower, for reasons I am still researching, which is, according to my boyfriend’s father (an acupuncturist), better for you. His logic behind this is that we’re supposed to be closer to the earth in order for our bodies to absorb certain minerals.
And can we just talk about Kyoto’s handful of green spaces for a minute? Actually, I’ll show you.
In Kyoto, Japan, I noticed four things.
1. The city is immaculate. I’m convinced that even cars wear indoor slippers in order to prevent from dirtying the bright, crisp lines in the streets. In Korea, if I walk the streets with sandals, I have come to terms with the fact that my feet will be black and there is nothing I can do about it. Caveman feet don’t exist in Kyoto. I walked the city for hours, and when I returned, my feet were cleaner than if I had rinsed them off from a shower in Seoul (but that’s because of dust bunnies– more explanation later on that).
2. After coming from Seoul, roughly 1.5 million people seemed like nothing. When I first arrived, I wondered if we came during a holiday. I felt like the city was empty most of the time and hardly witnessed or experienced a traffic jam. Although that last claim isn’t actually fair since I only rode in a taxi once. Just ignore that bit. But it was pretty quiet most of the time.
3. Kyoto has maybe one of my favorite city color palettes I’ve ever seen in real life. I like Hong Kong, too. But Kyoto had a lovely burnt orange, warm bisque, and cyan accented with black and dark brown beams — almost like framing a masterpiece.
4. Lastly, wifi is not as accessible as it is in Seoul. It was nice to be unplugged, even for just a moment. Commuters spent their time reading books, while people at restaurants actually ate their food and chatted with their dining companion.
Just the holiday I needed.