I seem to be falling head over heels in love recently; Kyoto is the most recent thing to top that list.
Kyoto is quite possibly one of the few cities i would like to live in. Right now I'm happy living in Annapolis, Maryland, USA but Kyoto Japan is rapidly moving up the list the longer I stay here.
It's tough to put my finger on exactly what makes a place livable. What makes it possible to be a home, and more than just a city? Some of it is the way it's layed out. houses are nice and cozy sitting right on top of each other [practically. You walk or ride your bike to wherever you are going, no need for a big SUV, you just buy your groceries one bit at a time.
The streets are quaint... what would seem like a narrow driveway in the states is a 2 lane road here; not that people zoom up and down it, but they drive slowly, quietly, respectfully around the pedestrian traffic.
It's safe. The 5 and 6 year old kids ride the bus and subway on their own to/from school as needed. You don't have to worry about your car being stolen, because you don't have one anyway. It's just a bike you ride to and from the subway station.
But most of all it has the parts I love about New York without the snobby people. It's a big city full of small town southern hospitality. The public transportation is amazing; buses, subways and sidewalks are full, the streets are mostly empty. The people are friendly. Not in the the-law-says-you-must-be-friendly kind of way; but in the genuine-care type of friendly.
The culture is also rich. They really care for the environment here; streets are never dirty, and you separate your trash out into 5 categories so it can be recycled most efficiently. I'm not one for the religion; but the Temples and Shrines are amazing. There is a tranquility about the Zen gardens that is clearly missing from every big city in the states.
I talked before about coming of age day in Japan. As part of that there is an archery contest at SanjÅ«sangen-dÅ Temple where the 20 year olds (both guys and girls) participate. The girls dress up in the Kimono's and it's just an amazing sight.
I should also mention that while at the ceremony/festival I had the most amazing drink I've had since I've been here. It was ginger tea. Though it doesn't sound like much, it was well worth the 300 yen i paid for it. (if only starbucks would serve such a thing)
In addition to ginger tea, there is a euphoria of other amazing tastes. Simply walking into the fresh market in Kyoto station is amazing. You are surrounded by the busiest market I've ever seen, and it's chocked full of food and stands that make the most amazing food. It's not like a supermarket in the states which has 24 types and brands of cheddar cheese to pick from; this fresh market has a million different things, every inch of space is put to use.
I regret not having a picture to show you of it. That'll be my job for tonight