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“Tell me about your hobbies.”

I have a lot of hobbies. For example, long distance bicycling, photography… especially taking pictures of beautiful landscapes. Now that I have two children, I take them on camping trips. All of these hobbies cost me too much money, but… Out of all of these hobbies, cycling is my favorite. There is a cycling road just near my house. From our home in Fushimi Inari, we cycle to Arashiyama, or Hirakata in Osaka, or Nara. The cycling road goes all the way there. Sometimes I go alone, and sometimes I go with friends. To go to Nara and back is about 100 kilometers, and I’ll do it in one day. I took up this hobby after I became a father. Until that time, I was mostly into photography. Like I said, I love taking photos of scenery. Because I’m living in Kyoto, I was taking photos of temples, shrines, gardens. I often went to this kind of place. Now that I have children, I don’t really have the chance to go to these kinds of places. The photographs I’m most proud of are ones taken in gardens, I suppose. Kinkakuji (The Golden Temple), for example. Actually, I really love statues of Buddha, but it’s a difficult to take photos of them. When I can, I do. Most of my photos are of gardens.

I also like collecting shuin. Do you know what that is? If you go to a temple and provide them with the designated kind of book and pay a certain amount of money, they’ll use a brush to write in the temple’s name, or perhaps a name of Buddha,  and the date. I collect those writings. In the Kansai Area, there are thirty-three famous temples, called Saigoku Sanjyusansho (The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage) so I collect shuin from those temples. There are also one-hundred-fifty designated temples and shrines in the Kansai area, so I go around to visit those places and collect shuin from those places, as well. So that way I can combine my hobbies in collecting these writings and taking photos. I’ve collected the shuin of about eighty places so far. If you go to a temple and see a shuin reception desk, how about trying it sometime?

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“How has Kyoto changed over time, in your opinion?”

It hasn’t changed so much for me…. Maybe it’s become more convenient because of the subway system. Before there were only the Keihan, Kintetsu, and Hankyu Lines. Then they made the Karasuma Line that reaches up to the north of the city, and the Tozai Line that runs east and west. It’s really become convenient. Also, the Keihan Line was all above ground and only went as far as Sanjo.

Now, Fushimi Inari Shrine has become famous as a tourist destination, designated as the #1 Kyoto Tourist Destination on TripAdvisor. Since that time, the number of international visitors to this area has dramatically increased. For us, the people who actually live in the neighborhood, the increase is too dramatic. It’s difficult to carry out our daily lives. There are just a LOT of people. We live right in front of the bus stop. The number of buses has increased… There are a lot of people. It’s hard to take care of our daily activities, but we are grateful that they’ve decided to come here.

I think the city of Kyoto itself isn’t so eye- catching.. Around tourist areas or temples, the area looks quaint and pretty. In other places, though, the layout of the buildings is really random. There is no consistency in the building style. That makes it look messy. In Europe, for example in Florence, Italy, all of the roofs are brown and the roads are cobblestone. There is a consistency of style. There is no building style requirement in Kyoto, unfortunately. It’s not pleasing to the eye upon first glance. Areas around shrines are really pretty.

“What is your Kyoto #1?”

What I do like about Kyoto is that it’s much more compact than neighboring Osaka. Trains or public transportation are always within easy walking distance. It’s really convenient. If I had to choose a favorite temple, it would be Toji. There are lots of Buddha statues there designated as National Treasures. For such statues, my real preference is to go to Nara. I like that Kyoto’s gardens are compact and all within a small proximity. There are some really amazing places. Nara, on the other hand, is on a much larger scale, and the Buddha statues there have really interesting facial expressions. But to see such statues in Kyoto, I’ll go to Toji. My favorite restaurant is Torisei because both the “yakitori” (grilled chicken skewers) and the sake are delicious.

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