||that we buy cube-shaped goodies wrapped in many-colored paper, called obento, at the railway station, and then eat them in the speeding train.”|
Which was exactly what we had done, and it had been the best thing. Now we had almost finished our first day in Kyoto.
“Guess how many temples we have here in Kyoto?” the cab driver asked. I, of course, didn’t understand his question, didn’t even know it was a question until Hiroko translated it into Finnish for me.
“Maybe -- fifty?” I said, my hesitation followed by instant embarrassment when the cabbie laughed as soon as Hiroko had translated my reply to him. His response was quick and brief.
“More than two thousand!” Hiroko said, apologetically. Sensitive as she was, she felt sorry for me and my extremely flawed estimate.
Hiroko had written: “Our eyes would be delighted and caressed by the appearance of the temples and Kyoto’s quiet paved streets merging into the transparent autumn light.”
That day we had visited only two temples, the Kodai and the Silver Temple. We had also seen the Nijo-jo Palace, famous for its singing nightingale floor. No one, neither in the old days nor now, was able to sneak into the palace, not even barefoot, without alerting the guards -- because the floorboards twittered like birds. The singing floor allowed the samurai to hear the assassin’s approach in time, and thus anyone with designs on another life met with a terrible end in the Nijo-jo Palace.
The low pine trees in the Silver Temple’s garden reminded me of pines on the storm-beaten islands of my homeland. Trees on those islands don’t grow tall either, they just twist their trunks and bow down humbly to the wind. Their wood is dense and tough, their annual rings remain as narrow as engagement rings.