Friday, March 7, 2014

Katsura Rikyu (桂離宮)

After two on-line rejections of my application to see Katsura Rikyu, the Imperial Villa, I decided to visit the Imperial Household Agency in person.  
"When would you like to go?"
"Um...tomorrow, ashita."
"Okay.  No problem."
Sometimes the internet is good for nothing.

Completed in 1615, Katsura Rikyu is considered one of the great gardens of Kyoto.  So I didn't mind that it took two trains, a subway and almost an hour to get to this south-west corner of the city.  It was a rather chilly morning but the weather forecast called for sunshine and comfortably cool temperatures.  I was hoping to see some pre-spring splendor, sakura buds ready to burst.  What I got instead was a freakish late winter snow storm.

Unlike my last encounter with the Imperial Household Agency in the autumn when I visited Sento Gosho, the pace of this tour was a bit more hurried.  The shutterbugs that trailed behind were encouraged by a rather large security guard to keep it moving.  Maybe he was cold and just wanted to get indoors.

The snow began falling shortly after we entered the garden, but was light and pleasant beneath a still mostly blue sky.  It melted immediately.  About halfway through the tour it became a little more zealous, clinging to the trees and grass and bare heads of the visitors.  I was smiling, but others in the group were less amused by Mother Nature's trick.  No sooner had it begun to turn the garden a soft white than the sun came out and transformed it into sparkling silver water droplets.

This is spring.  As long as I have lived outside of the dull and predictable springs of southern California I have marveled at the battle between the seasons, winter trying desperately to hold on to what was his for the last 3 months, and spring pushing hard for an introduction.  It is literally a fight.  We, as spectators, should find a good seat and enjoy the match, maybe laugh a little.

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