There were things I didn't know I needed. Space. Distance. Apologies (which never really came but sometimes we must take what we are offered). Rest. I'd walked the steep hill to Kiyomizu-dera, stopping to people watch and eat mango and green tea twisted ice cream. It was good to be alone. My head felt clearer as the city fell beneath me, a wide view of Kyoto spread across the horizon-the ancient and the new. Packs of tourists weaved around me and suddenly a woman was holding my attention.
"Where are you from?" she asked.
She was from another city in Japan and here on a work assignment.
"It's not meant to be like this. The temple is supposed to be a place for quiet reflection. How are you supposed to focus with all these people around?"
I shook my head, shrugged my shoulders. Minutes later she was gone.
I passed through the main hall. Curved with the path between lush trees. Took longer moments to stop. To breathe. Turning to capture the view, Kiyomizu-dera seemed to rise from the earth itself.
On the way down I had to keep my feet from slipping on the pavement. Stores with kimonos and vintage tchotchkes dotted the small rode, their owners smiling and staring at my hair, asking where I was from. Dinner plans were coming up soon, but when I spotted 336 I couldn't help myself.
The sake bar was sleek yet fit perfectly within the old neighborhood. I pushed my bags underneath me just as the bartender offered to place my things in a bin closer to the door. She was young and kind and most of our communication relied on smiling. She pointed me towards a dry selection I might like and I added sliced duck to my bill. The drink was poured into a small clay pot with an even smaller cup of my choosing placed next to it-easy portion control.
I thought about the woman from earlier. Her disdain for the current state of temples. Large swaths of people talking loudly, uninterested in the reason these spaces were built. She was right. What it had in beauty it was lacking in peace. It's hard to be thoughtful amidst the clanging of life. The constance of noise.
I looked out the window from my perch in the still, empty bar, took another sip of sake, and stretched my legs. She would have been happier here.