Son Unit & I have left Kyoto and are now in in Central Japan, around the city of Nagoya.
It’s a different place; grey is a good word to describe it. I always saw and felt this heavy greyness whenever riding back from Kyoto or Kansai on the Bullet Train, when it merges from the mountain pass at Sekigahara, on to the plain of Central Japan, as I felt his time too.
Unlike Kyoto, there’s no real physically beauty to speak of, no visual charm, or sense of refinement. Its crowded, with non-descript, often loathsome buildings, crowded housing, factories, tawdry amusement and shopping centers, all melded into one soulless picture that can be depressing unless one ignores it.
This is not to say Kyoto does have its issues. One can argue Kyoto produces really nothing, that it’s a relic, a fossil. And comparing present day Kyoto to the Kyoto I fell in love with ages ago, I see blemishes now, like small brown spots slowing appearing on a fine piece of paper over time. You see, for many years, Kyoto had to keep its overall architectural integrity, limits on building heights, and seemed to discourage new construction at the expense of existing construction. This kept the city low of course and the architecture traditional. But in the walks I had through some of the neighborhoods during this visit, I saw there are more buildings of more recent architecture and higher as well, replacing the older, more nostalgic buildings. View from on high, the general face of the city is noticeably different.
Its also not that all of the Kyoto area is sublime: get out of what was old city and into areas in most directions and you’ll find the same dreary, depressing jumble and jam one can find in Central Japan, or in and around Tokyo or Osaka.
But Central Japan does have something Kyoto doesn’t: it is the muscle and sinew of Japan Incorporated, it makes it creates; it in effect earns more of its keep than Kyoto does. And despite it constantly being ridiculed as being populated with bumpkins, Central Japan produced the 3 great unifiers of feudal Japan: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the man who put it all together, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Sony’s founder also was a product of Central Japan and of course need I say anything about the Toyota family?
So love-hate is the best word I can come up with to describe my confused feelings for this place, and it’s the place where son came into this world.