The Shinkansen (bullet train) ride to Kyoto was not only a fun experience — like a kid I was deathly amused the whole journey — but at the depths of it all, it was also a meditative one. In fact, for me, one of the highlights of Japan was riding the Shinkansen.
There’s something of a romantic and philosophical dimension to riding trains for long hours and observing the naturesque sceneries, alone deep in thought. I was tired and my body demanded sleep, but more than anything, I longed to witness Japan’s marvellous sceneries. With vast green fields, imposing mountains, and dark and mysterious skies in sight, I felt at peace again; and at that moment, I believed that wherever I tread in the world, I’d eventually find my way home.
Home was a feeling, one of safety, love, connection, and belonging. I found home in Kyoto, in the kindness of people, in moments of solitude and contemplation, and in nature — a reflection of myself and life in its authenticity. If my early moments in Fukuoka had shaken my core, and unravelled the unchartered territories of my psyche, then Kyoto had restored my balance and pointed to me the way back.
It was my first day in Kyoto and after checking in to my guesthouse — and snapping photos of the vicinity to make sure I can find my way back, because as everyone knows, I have no sense of direction — I took the subway to visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Entering this magical realm felt surreal; the green bamboo stalks were colossal, and at such an impressive height, seemed to kiss the cosmos; and the sound of birds chirping was music to my ears. I was saddened that the majestic sight was over within just a short walk. However, that didn’t mean the exploring had stopped. There were still nooks and crevices to explore, and off the beaten path I went.
I guess some things appear in your life when you need it or when it resonates with your soul. Sitting in my room that evening, I opened up the YouTube webpage, and there it was: a title of a song that appeared at the right moment. The song was called “Alone in Kyoto” by Air, and when I listened to it, I knew it was meant for me — the rhythm, the story, the emotion. And for what remained of my time in Kyoto, I’d listen to it every night, earbuds plugged in, until I fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.