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OPINION: That Time We Flew Around The World, Part 3

After the scene was shot we were skillfully moved to another "sound stage" which happened to be the offices of the studios where they were using the corridors to shoot a television soap opera.

The halls and offices were threadbare, in need of a good scrubbing, paint and much work on the flickering fluorescent lights.

And there were two hospital gurneys in the hall since that was the setting of the soap opera's hospital sequence and the hall was subbing for the operating room.

Never having been in an actual Indian hospital, we passed no judgment.

The restaurant came first but nobody spoke English, no menu was in English and the Japanese are not famous for courtesy to foreigners.

Shortly after, we joined our group and flew and toured by bus around India. At this time India was trying to build infrastructure and decreed that all cars, buses, and probably everything else, had to be built in India. Bad mistake. Bad buses. Bad taxis.

At one point my wife and I and another couple went out on the town in a bad taxi. I was seated in the back on the left side and the door wouldn't latch so the driver took a hoop of metal already in place and looped it over some hook in the back panel. Together with me holding the door tightly and the hoop, everything was okay until we rounded a corner to the right at pretty fast speed and the door swung way out, the hoop snapped and only my wife's tight grip kept me from following into the night. My only excuse at this time is that I was young and dumb. And it wasn't really possible to get to a plane and fly straight home.

If it sounds like I am criticizing India, believe me when I say what a fan I am of India, the Indian people, the fabulous sights, cities, palaces, fortresses, hotels, temples, scenery and the special light which is marvelous for photography. India is magical and captivating.

One of the musts for people touring North India is a visit to Agra and the "real" Taj Mahal, often spoken of as the most beautiful building in the world. Our tour was planned to arrive in Agra the afternoon of the full moon where the great daytime beauty became overshadowed by the almost unbearable sight of its exquisiteness under the full moon.

Many more fabulous Indian sights later, we boarded Pan Am again (in New Delhi) and flew to Singapore (without deplaning) and then to Tokyo. Japan is the land of precision automobiles (taxis), incredible buses and the miraculous Bullet Train. What could go wrong?

We got off the Bullet Train, drove out to the country and got lost. At that time, once you left the big cities, you left all signs not in Japanese. And nobody spoke English. We have never felt so lost in our lives. We had to cruise up and down streets to see if we could spot a restaurant or a police station.

The restaurant come first but nobody spoke English, no menu was in English and the Japanese are not famous for courtesy to foreigners. We just put some yen on the counter and made eating gestures. A number of plates and bowls arrived (with chopsticks) and we ended up eating with our dirty hands. Japanese rest rooms are sparse, filthy and incredibly (knock you off your feet) smelly.

We finally found an official who couldn't speak English but understood Kyoto and put us on the road to that famed and beautiful city. We vowed, "No more cars in foreign lands!" We broke that vow in Ghana but that's another story.

Many world traveled and distinguished people think Kyoto is the world's most beautiful city and I cannot argue with that opinion. Awesome is the word.

Japanese students of all ages seem to be on perpetual field trips visiting the same sights tourists visit so we see a lot of them and they see a lot of us. Each school or class has their own uniforms and they are an impressive sight. The younger ones giggle at Westerners and say, clearly, "Gaijin" which means foreigner with negative connotations.

Although the U. S. brought Japan its U. S. brand of democracy it didn't succeed in bringing U. S. manners so watch out for those old ladies and old men and their elbows. They are short and their elbows hit men where it hurts the most and they rudely elbow gaijins (and I believe, Japanese as well) out of their way in line or on the walks.

If it sounds like I am criticizing Japan, believe me when I say you are correct. Trains, automobiles and buses that work, impressive infrastructure, gorgeous Oriental gardens, outstanding temples but the people have little grace and little charm. India yes, Japan no. Presciently the future today does seem to flowing from Japan to India. Hard work isn't enough, charm and grace make a difference. Also, a growing population.

From Kyoto we bullet-trained back to Tokyo where we completed our around the world trip by flying to San Francisco. Pan Am was great. Every flight left and arrived on time. It would seem bad management did them in but they were the finest while they lasted and we can confidently say we will never see their like again.

Adapted from an Opinion by Duff Coldwater as submitted to


Herein Some Facts About What Many People Think Is The "World's Most Beautiful City."

1. Although archaeological evidence places the first human settlement on the islands of Japan in approximately 10,000 BC, relatively little is known about human activity in the area before the 6th century AD, around which time the Shimogamo Shrine is believed to have been established.

2. During the 8th century, when powerful Buddhist clergy became involved in the affairs of the Imperial government, the Emperor chose to relocate the capital to a region far from the Buddhist influence.

3. Emperor Kammu selected the village of Uda, at the time in the Kadono district of Yamashiro Province, for this honor. and the new city, Heian-kyo- ( "tranquility and peace capital"), a scaled replica of the then Tang capital Chang'an, became the seat of Japan's imperial court in 794.

4. Kyoto remained Japan's capital until the transfer of the imperial court to Tokyo in 1869 at the time of the Imperial Restoration. (Some believe that it is still the legal capital.)

5. The city suffered extensive destruction in the O-nin War of 1467-1477, and did not really recover until the mid-16th century. Battles between samurai factions spilled into the streets, and came to involve the court nobility (kuge) and religious factions as well. Nobles' mansions were transformed into fortresses, deep trenches dug throughout the city for defense and as firebreaks, and numerous buildings burned. The city has not seen such widespread destruction since.

6. In late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi restructured the city by building new streets to double the number of north-south streets in central Kyoto, creating rectangle blocks superseding ancient square blocks. Throughout the Edo period, the economy of the city flourished as one of three major cities in Japan, the others being Osaka and Edo(Tokyo).

7. The Hamaguri rebellion of 1864 burnt down 28,000 houses in the city, and the subsequent move of the Emperor to Tokyo in 1869 weakened the economy. The modern city of Kyoto was formed on April 1, 1889.

8. There was some consideration by the United States to targeting Kyoto with an atomic bomb at the end of World War II because, as an intellectual center of Japan, it had a population "better able to appreciate the significance of the weapon." In the end, at the insistence of Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, the city was removed from the list of targets and replaced by Nagasaki.

9. The city was largely spared from conventional bombing as well, although small-scale air raids did result in casualties.

10. As a result, Kyoto is one of the few Japanese cities that still have an abundance of prewar buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya, not to mention the Temples, the Shrines, the Palaces, the Castles, the hotels, the municipal buildings, the trees, the flowers, everything recalling the essence of historic Japan.

11. Sadly, modernization is continually breaking down the traditional Kyoto in favor of newer architecture, such as the Kyoto Station complex.

12. Kyoto has survived wars and earthquakes, good times and bad times, poverty and prosperity for over twelve thousand years and will continue to enchant foreigners and locals for thousands of years more.

Many Thanks To Wikipedia

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