Some of the thoughts and special moments we had during the Kyoto excursion:
My teenagers mocked me praying at every temple we visited. They had never seen me pray before. I am not sure whether they fully understood what Buddhism, Shintoism and other religions mean to typical modern Japanese including myself. For the most part, Japanese respect the presence of some sort of a higher being. The way they interact with this higher being, however, is typically very personal and not socially organized. To me, these temples provide the opportunity for me to give thoughts to the higher being. Nothing less, and nothing more. The act of praying allows me to focus the thoughts.
My teenagers were constantly amazed by the bicyclists. The bicyclists pretty much own the streets there, and taxi cabs are constantly yielding to the bicyclists. My daughter, who wants to one day live in Japan, is now considering living in Kyoto and owning a bicycle to be one of her life’s goals. I would love for her to live there and perhaps go to school or teach English there. That would give me an excuse to visit Kyoto often.
My teenagers loved the Shinkyogoku shopping district and its vicinity. We went to UNIQLO and LOFT twice (and bought tons of reasonably priced clothes and a rather expensive suitcase). We walked up and down the Shinkyogoku mall.
My teenagers enjoyed shopping at convenience stores without me. They speak no Japanese and store keepers hardly speak any English. But since Kyoto receives so many foreign visitors, the store keepers are able to help clueless customers and my kids rather easily.
My teenagers were able to take the lead in selecting the bus routs thanks to the English bus rout map. Once we were on the bus, the multilingual announcements kept them well informed. Kyoto is absolutely the best place to visit in all of Japan for foreign tourists. The city has a very robust and extremely accomodating tourism infrastructure that is unlike any other place in Japan. I wish the city would do more to attract international conventions. Internationale convention organizers in Japan should be strongly encouraged to consider Kyoto over Tokyo or other cities.
Speaking of conventions, the ASLO meeting will be in Otsu which is just a short train ride from Kyoto next year. I am doing everything I can think of to get funds for me to go to this meeting.