Traveling alone isn’t the first thought for most people when they are abroad. The area is new, you don’t know your way around and things can be very dangerous if you don’t watch out for yourself. While these are all good points, I think that all travelers should be able to go and have moments to themselves.
For our last day in Kyoto, I wanted to spent time a little differently than the rest of the trip. We had been going so fast paced for so long, I wanted a little time to myself to explore freely. Two classmates and I went to the samurai and ninja museum in Kyoto, but this is about the walk I had on the way to the museum.
Waking up past 10 a.m. on our trip was something that only happened this once, and I was extremely grateful for it. Despite that, I wanted to waste no time. I set out for the strip of Kyoto a couple hours ahead of the meeting time with my group. I stopped at a local coffee shop for a bit of breakfast and decided to walk off the main path that I had been exploring for the past couple days. Only a few blocks behind one of the largest shopping districts in Kyoto, it felt like an entirely different landscape.
The main strip in Kyoto was retail- and fashion-oriented and reminded me a little of the Domain in Austin. The tiny and compact streets across the main road were the exact opposite, and I felt like I could never get a good read on where exactly I was. For example, the roads were empty of people, but filled with shops and stores on either side. I was the only one on the silent streets, and then just seconds later I would see multiple cars at an intersection with bicyclists and pedestrians all around. As quick as they would turn up, they would vanish again.
I loved walking around this part of Kyoto because it seemed to be more of a local area with no tourist attractions. I saw paid parking lots next to home businesses and shops that could have really been for anything. I walked into a random store and found two men making chopsticks by hand that all had beautiful designs and images on them. I bought a pair, and the man seemed ecstatic that I was enjoying his artwork.
The streets here were peacefully quiet yet thriving with life and people all around. Having the time to just walk the streets as the local people do was one of my favorite moments because it felt natural. There was no one trying to get me to come to their flashy store or in a rush to go somewhere. It was just a neighborhood where people were doing everyday things.
In this moment, life in Japan seemed much more tangible than on the subway or among the hundreds of people on the streets of Tokyo. It’s easy to forget what normal life is like when you’re traveling abroad; On a trip, things are always moving fast with tons of new experiences, so the mundane things can seem hardly worth seeking out. I’m glad I went looking.