WALKIN’ THE STREETS

I walked down off Kiyomizu-yama as the lockdown was cranking up in Kansai. Another of the Kyoto Hundred Mountains in the bag. It was nothing more than an afternoon stroll from the house. Just a stretch of the old legs. Blow out the cobwebs of a two-week housebound funk. A mid-spring wind that had been blowing for days tousled the cedar overhead and I feasted on its breath. At the mountain’s western foot stands the famed Kiyomizu-dera, a Kyoto landmark that crawls with tourists like lesser-regarded wooden structures in this town crawl with white ants. Spotting a side trail down to this sanctuary I decided on a whim to duck down on the off chance it was welcoming visitors.  Slipping through a back entrance allows you to prowl the grounds without forking out the 400 yen fee to squeeze onto the wooden stage, above the treetops, crammed with the sightseeing herds, a cattle yard thirteen metres off the ground. But of course, barely a soul was there! The livestock corralled farther afield. This was a sight worth seeing! I duly paid my entrance fee and stood in awe – not at the magnificent structure recently unmasked after renovations, nor at the views across the treetops sprouting their new spring greens. I’d seen it all before. But the emptiness of it all. I shared one of Kyoto’s most famed destinations with a dozen other souls and save for the wind all was silent…too silent.

And that inspired this: