We were in Kyoto in April, 1981 and it was our last day in Japan before flying off to Guam. What to do? That was easy: visit some temples and gardens — they are all over the city. Where to go? Now that question is a little harder. It would take a year to visit each of the more than 1600 temples and shrines in the city and we only had a few hours. So we checked out a map and decided that there is a ward in the eastern part of the city called Higashiyama that has many of the oldest and most popular temples and it looked like it would be a nice walk. So off we ventured, hoping that we get a few hours of sightseeing before the forecasted rain.
Our first stop was the Kiyomizu-dera Temple halfway up a hill in the southern area of Higashiyama. Our plan from there was to walk north to an area east of the Gion district that was filled with temples and gardens. Then we would cross the canal and visit the huge Heian Shrine. After that we would decide whether we wanted to continue on east of the shrine to visit some more temples that were nestled in the eastern hills.
We all agreed our walk was quite an experience as we caught an inkling about what Japanese architecture and landscaping is all about and we derived a slight understanding of a sacred culture outside our Christian world. Today we would say “amazing” and “awesome” but we didn’t use those words thirty years ago.