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Kyoto, Japan

by Ryan Cole

"3rd wish?  Take me to '60s San Fran."
"No can do.  How 'bout current Kyoto?"
"Even better."

How lucky that Kyoto, the most historic city in Japan, is also the only one that wasn't obliterated by war. Thankfully, the opportunity remains to encounter our inner Mystery Beauty, provoked by the unique moving stillness of this city's spirit. Perhaps the mystical lines lying in the sand of all the rock gardens do it. Or perhaps you will be strolling the Philosopher's Walk soaking in the babbling canal, the bucolic bridges that arch above it, surrounded by blooming cherry trees when one perfect pink petal floats down to caress your shoulder and you find peace.  Perchance it will be in the hidden romance of Gion's wooden buildings, or the graceful curve of the colorful tiled roofs that adorn all the temples and many houses. Where you find your moment is not so important. What matters is that the moment is there, waiting. And you'll need it, because keeping your balance in the excitement of Kyoto is a challenge.

Now you're walking along the Kamogawa River downtown, in the Kawaramachi neighborhood. On every side of you are day-glo souls blowing flames from lips, lighting fireworks, juggling, playing drums - in love with living.  Watching the water flow below are couples cuddling inconspicuously, philosophers searching for the eternal gist, guitarists tuning for the night -everyone is mystic.

Suddenly you find yourself not merely amongst them, but one of them - one with them. A mysterious inner drive finds you, it bounces you around the bars and clubs spawned on the adjacent Takasegawa river (which is really a canal, a hyper-neon pinball Amsterdam). You walk around temple grounds lit by candles in dangling paper lanterns, follow them to the festival of the moment - it seems there's always at least one. You feel yourself connected to a higher state because you are in Kyoto, and Kyoto's energy is vibrating wildly.

Japan is changing again, the pace is quickening. The current generation is rejecting the security of salaryman ways - a response to material lives and distant families. People are coming alive with creativity that is just now starting to find direction. Kyoto is the catalyst of the cataclysm, it is shaking the culture and opening the group mind. In short, it is the most exciting place you can hope to be.

When the sheer spiritual awareness of the city has exhausted you and a break is needed, worry not. Pop 30 minutes south to contemplate life listening to the street bands of Osaka, or join the flashy lithe ladies and lads (Life Clubbers). 20 minutes outside Kyoto you'll find some of the only untouched nature in Japan. Or retreat to the most perfect touched nature in the world, Kyoto's famous sacred gardens. The play between the peace of the city and the shifting in it is spellbinding.  Kyoto contains the secrets travelers seek. You only had to arrive to realize it.

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