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Kyoto: My Bloodlines

Chapter One

10 May 2020

Kyoto has always been a magical city for me.

 

When I was a child we would go over as a family every two years or so to visit my relatives. The announcement from my parents and the following anticipation of going over to Japan was a huge source of excitement for my brother and me.

The eleven hours to fly over would drag on for us kids who had no perception of time. We played with the Qantas kids' packs we received and craned our necks to watch the movie projected on the one screen at the front of the cabin.

After landing at Kansai International Airport, there was a whole other world awaiting us. We rode the airport monorail to the next building with Japanese announcements overhead, every surface clean and shiny. I would look up in wonder at the high domed ceiling of the terminal with white framework, white sheets of fabric and coloured pipes crisscrossing it. It looked like the sails of a magnificent ship.

 

My ojīchan and oji would be patiently waiting for us on the ground level. They would be armed with snacks that my obāchan had packed: handmade onigiri, mandarins and tiny bottles of Yakult.

 

The MK Shuttle was parked up outside at the curb, waiting for us. The driver in his crisp white shirt, driver's hat and white gloves would load our luggage in the back while we piled into the seats. Pristine white lace covered the seats and headrests. It was the last two hour leg of the journey to drive from port city Osaka to inland Kyoto.

Kyoto is now known to the world as the cultural capital of Japan, with two thousand shrines and temples within its city, but it also has the proud history of being Japan's imperial capital city for over a thousand years during and after the Heian era. The city streets were laid out in a grid format to imitate the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an, and they’re still like this today. There’s even an old song that Kyoto children sing to remember what order the street names are lined up: maru, take, ebisu, ni, oshi, oike...

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