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Kyoto Files: Part Two :)

My second day was about to be even more exciting than the first. I was going on a private tour to see all of the sights I’d been staring at in pictures for months in person. I couldn’t even sleep being that I was so darn excited. My adventure in Kyoto was off to a great start and I knew that it would have an even more spectacular ending.

I have to start off with giving a huge thanks to one of my dance mamas, Mama Erin. She was actually one of the first people I told about my trip to Japan and she was so supportive. She just happened to know someone who lived in Kyoto. (This is how my God works) A very good friend of hers had a son who has lived in Kyoto for over seven years and he does tours of the city! She connected us in email and the rest was history! (Thank you so much Mama Erin!)

I met Andrew at the lobby of my hotel and he made my day more special than I could’ve imagined. Andrew has a burning passion for Japanese garden landscaping and architecture. He moved here following his passion to learn within his craft. Since moving to Kyoto, he met and married his beautiful wife and had the most beautiful daughter. He works in Japanese gardens everyday, helping to upkeep their layout and also design their infrastructure. It’s so wonderful seeing someone talk about what they love and I got to listen to Andrew tell me about Japanese culture all day.

We made our way to the area of Kyoto called Arashiyama, which translates to to the Stormy Mountains. The entire area is surrounded by these huge mountains that create the most beautiful and unreal backdrop. I couldn’t believe my eyes and the fact that people lived here. I mean, I couldn’t imagine waking up to such beautiful views every morning. We walked through the streets of the neighborhood, and made our way to our first stop, the Tenryu-Ji Temple which was established in 1339. This temple has one of the oldest gardens in Japan, setting the sketch for other Japanese gardens to follow. As I sat with Andrew, he told me about the intricacies of the design of the garden. In short, everything from the shape of the pond, to the angle in which the trees are trimmed, to the placement of the rocks, and arcs of the flowers, every part of the garden is thoroughly thought through. This attention to detail serves the purpose of making the garden as beautiful as humanly possible, so that it would resemble heaven. This would be allow the monks and shoguns to pray in the most pure setting. The pictures speak for themselves, but don’t even do the view justice.

We walked through the gardens to see the most beautiful views of Kyoto and the Arashiyama mountains. We walked through the path and stumbled upon the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest! Oh my goodness… This was one of the sights I’ve seen over and over in pictures and strared at for hours in excitement only to realize that it was way more breathtaking in person. The forest is filled with bamboo towering over you creating the most beautiful canopy. I mean my goodness, we live in such a beautiful world. And even though this world can be complicated, there are some places where everything just seems so simple. This was one of those places.

After Arashiyama, we ventured to this little food spot that Andrew has taken a lot of his tours before, and that food was delicious! I had what I would like to call the most delicious and fresh fried fish I’ve had in a long time. Andrew described this restaurant as “grandma’s cooking” and he was right. It was great. Throughout this entire time, Andrew and I got to talk about so many things from this family, us both growing up in Columbia, MD, and everything in between. He really is a gem.

We made our way to the RyoanJi Temple which has the famous Rock Garden. This garden was only comprised of small pebbles and 15 large rocks. But the catch is, you can’t see all 15 rocks from wherever you sit. No matter at what angle you view the garden, you can’t see all 15. It was said that you could only see the 15 pebbles if you reached enlightenment. Andrew and I talked about how that idea could be a metaphor for life and all of our thoughts in staring at this extremely bare but also full garden. It was lovely.

We then walked some more, got some bubble tea and