And thus, our plan to go to Nanzen-ji the next day was set.
We’d arranged to meet at 11 in the morning in front of the sanmon1. Naturally, I was thinking of going to Nanzen-ji by car, but Holmes said as follows:
“Akihito-san, please head to Nanzen-ji by bus or by train.”
He said that in a warning tone.
Why did he say that? I thought, and he immediately answered.
“Almost all tourists who come to Kyoto get around by public transport. If you’re going to introduce the city of Kyoto, it’s important to understand the feelings of the tourists. You always get around by car, don’t you?” Faced with such a question, I couldn’t argue with him.
Indeed, I would always travel by car.
I’ve never even thought of using public transport to get to tourist locations in the first place.
“If you’re going by bus, you should alight at Nanzenji Eikandomichi, and if you’re going by subway, you should alight at Keage Station. As for me, I usually take the train and head to Nanzen-ji via the tunnel called ‘Nejirimanpo’.”
“Nejirimanpo’s an aqueduct2?”
Even though I was raised in Kyoto, or perhaps because I was raised in Kyoto, there’s a lot of things I don’t know about the city.
Even for Kinkaku-ji, I’ve only been there once on a bus tour in elementary school. I think I’ve gone to other places on school trips as well, but I can’t remember much about them.
“It’s not an aqueduct, it’s a small tunnel, or in other words, a pipeline. It’s inlaid with bricks and is quite a sight to behold, so I recommend going by that path.”
Holmes explained. With a small nod, I replied, “I see.”
—And so, I went on the subway that I’d rarely taken from Karasuma Oike station.
Since it was a weekday afternoon, there were few passengers.
It was only four stops to Keage Station. The ride was over before I knew it.
Kyoto’s roads are small and crowded, so this is actually much faster than getting around by car.
That was what I thought as I studied the route map.
After alighting at Keage Station, I went up to the surface and was dazzled by the green hill before my eyes.
That would be the grounds of the Keage Water Purification Plant. It’s always arranged beautifully, and azaleas bloom there in May. I remember seeing the Keage Incline3 during a trip to the nearby zoo with my family in elementary school.
At that time, my father had pointed at the train line that isn’t being used now.
“There used to be a railway track here that transported boats.”
“The sakura would be open if we’d come here last month. This is also a famous place for viewing sakura.”
My mother had continued, and then we talked and planned to come here again the following year.
But in the end, that didn’t happen.
Because it was in the city, it was a place we thought we could visit at any time, but it was often that we would end up not visiting such places.
Indeed, if this quaint railway line had blossoming sakura trees around it, it would certainly be a sight to behold. Now that my father has passed on, it’s a shame that I won’t be able to see this with my whole family, but it’d be great if I can convey that beauty in a television program next year in spring.
As I had that thought, I started feeling motivated to do this job well.
Nejirimanpo was actually just a few steps away, and it was a small tunnel inlaid with bricks. It felt exactly like something built in the Meiji Period, but at the same time, it also felt like a tunnel used by a small village of a foreign country. It had an arch shape, and upon entering it, one could see the bricks arranged in such a way that it was as if they were twisted and warped onto one another.
“I see, so that’s why it’s called Nejirimanpo.”4
I passed through the tunnel with a newfound admiration for its name.
Past the tunnel, I walked for a short while, and Nanzen-ji’s sanmon finally came into view.
I was overwhelmed by the gigantic, sturdy black gate that I had to raise my head to look at properly.
The circular pillars holding that huge door up were also thick and majestic, temporarily enveloping me in their austere atmosphere and leaving me with a profound feeling. Is this what they call “feeling the history with your skin”?
I stood around wondering if that could be applied to such a magnificent gate, when…
“Good morning,” a voice sounded from behind me, causing me to turn around in surprise.
There was Holmes in a jacket and jeans. It was a rough, simple attire, but it had good sense.
With the help of his face and great style, it fit him well.
Damn, he’s seriously such a handsome guy, huh. But he’s still not as prominent as me, right?
As usual, my rivalry flared up as he approached.
“Could you stop glaring at me like that as soon as we meet?”
Holmes continued, a smile still on his face. I hurriedly shook my head.
“I wasn’t glaring or anything.”
“How was the stroll from Keage Station?”
He asked as we started slowly walking.
“Ah, yeah, it wasn’t bad.”
“After passing through the tunnel Nejirimanpo that makes you think of a foreign country, gazing at the sanmon fills you with an inexplicable emotion, and at the same time, your heart feels like it’s being gripped by a strong force, right?”
He calmly spoke while looking up at the sanmon.
—I understand what he’s saying. I also felt the same way.
“I thought it’d be good if I got you to experience that feeling, Akihito-san.”
He continued. Realizing that I’d fallen right into his expectations, I smiled wryly.
“Nanzen-ji is the main temple of the Nanzen-ji branch of Rinzai Zen, and holds the highest rank of Zen temples in Japan.”
The highest rank! I never knew that.
“You can tell a temple’s rank from the size of its sanmon, and this massive sanmon goes up to twenty-two meters in height.”
Perhaps it was the sanmon’s amazing aura, but I felt overwhelmed by something I couldn’t see.
“Shall we go to the top of the sanmon, then?”
Holmes pointed at the platform on the second floor of the entrance gate, causing me to excitedly nod and reply, “Sure!”
Since we would need to pay an entrance fee to climb the sanmon, I spoke.
“Ah, I’ll pay here! I’m the one who asked a favor from you, after all.” But Holmes swiftly offered me a ticket.
“I arrived here early, so I bought the tickets. Let’s go.”
He grinned as I accepted my ticket in blank amazement.
This guy’s way too smart!
Overcome by his high escorting skill, I almost collapsed on the spot.
“…Holmes, I’ll really have all sorts of things to learn from you.”
With the ticket in my hand, I said those words from my heart, causing the corners of Holmes’ mouth to curve upward in amusement.
Perhaps because it was a weekday morning, but the grounds of Nanzen-ji were devoid of people, and there was almost no one going up to the second floor of the sanmon.
“Akihito-san, the steps are quite steep, so be careful.”
As Holmes said, the wooden staircase used to ascend the gate was surprisingly steep. A person who’s easily afraid might even go down on all fours just to climb the staircase.
“After you,” Holmes said. Taking up the offer, I went up the stairs first. I could tell that he was following closely behind while carefully holding onto the handrails.
I see, he’s thinking of catching me if I happen to slip.
He’s so gentlemanly even when he’s with another man.
Perhaps it’s because he’s gone around with Owner a lot.
When moving with Owner, I expect that his disciples must often think about what could happen next.
Since he’s acquired that habit, Holmes is able to be naturally smart to others and escort them well.
As I reached the second floor, I could feel the autumn wind blowing straight onto my face.
From this height, I could survey the grounds.
There were trees with leaves that were lightly tinged with color, as well as people who had come to sightsee.
With both hands on the handrails, I let out a cry of exclamation, as Holmes nodded, smiling.
“Makes you want to say, ‘What an amazing view!’, right?”
“It’s from a Kabuki5 play. The Great Thief of the World, Ishikawa Goemon6, sits on top of the gate smoking a pipe and exclaims, ‘What an amazing view!’7… You understand how Ishikawa Goemon feels in that scene, don’t you?”
Holmes explained as he looked over the scenery and narrowed his eyes pleasantly.
You can see the beautiful trees in the grounds, and if you look further out, you can even see the four seasons of the city of Kyoto in one unbroken view.
The famous Daimonji and Funagata8 of the Gozan no Okuribi can also be viewed here.
“—Yeah, it’s really an amazing view. So Ishikawa Goemon also came up here, huh.”
“No, he didn’t.”
“As I said, it’s from a Kabuki play. This sanmon was built after Ishikawa Goemon’s execution, so he did not come up here in reality.”
“People in Kyoto just feel that much romanticism to the amazing view from here.”
He said as he gazed at the scenery again.
As if lured by Holmes, I followed suit.
I see, I understand being moved by this scenery and wanting to use it in a work.
Holmes looked at me and grinned as he saw me nodding in agreement.
“Akihito-san, the good part about you is that your honest nature. Please do not forget this feeling, and convey to your viewers the deep emotions you felt here.”
I was somehow deeply moved by those words.
Honest nature — that’s probably the first time someone’s said that of me.
That made me believe from the bottom of my heart that I shouldn’t gloss over things, and I should instead convey the strong impressions and feelings I received from this scenery, exactly as they are.
“But please refrain from saying words like ‘Amazing’ and ‘seriously’ on television. In a sense, you’re representing Kyoto guys on that television program.”
Upon hearing that sharp suggestion, I folded my arms and sullenly said, “Y-Yeah, I know!”
“We’ll be entering the temple after this, so shall we look at the Waterway Pavilion, then have lunch?” Holmes asked while checking the time.
“Ah, but I’ll be treating you for lunch, you hear? Let me treat you, because that’s what I want to do!”
I grabbed Holmes’ hand as I got worked up.
“…Thank you very much, but you don’t have to say that in such a loud voice, nor do you have to grab my hand. Look, those girls over there are blushing because they’re misunderstanding our relationship, and that’s the last thing I want.”
Faced with a surprisingly cold smile, I pulled my face away.
—We then went down the sanmon, and went further into the grounds of Nanzen-ji to find an arch bridge with a retro design, or the Waterway Pavilion. It was like a raised aqueduct from Ancient Rome, or one of those brick bridges in Europe that seem like historical remains.
Come to think of it, this is also the first time I’m properly seeing this Waterway Pavilion.
“The Waterway Pavilion is an unparalleled achievement of the Meiji Period. A tributary of the canal from Biwa Lake flows on top of the bridge, like a small stream. It’s been over a hundred and twenty years since it was built, but it still fulfils its duty.”
Holmes quietly placed a hand on the brick structure and look up at the bridge.
While I felt it strange that a raised bridge made with old bricks in the style of foreign countries would be adjacent to the highest-ranked temple, Nanzen-ji, but at the same time, I felt that it fit in quite well.
It was a raised bridge made out of red bricks, arranged as a sequence of arches. It gave off a strange feeling, as if I’d accidentally wandered off into a different world.
“…This is amazing. I never knew such a bridge was just next to Nanzen-ji.”
“Apparently, it faced plenty of criticism when it was being constructed. Since they were worried about destroying the environment, they constructed a foreign-style water pavilion that was epochal for its time, and now it has blended into the environment here. It’s a good example of Japanese-Western Eclectic Architecture. By the way, this Water Pavilion has been designated as a historical monument of Kyoto.
As usual, his display of knowledge was impressive. It’s like he’s a guide.
As I thought, it’s good that I asked him to come. However…
“I’d totally like to come here on a date. Girls will love it, don’t you think?”
Hang on, should I not have asked him that, since I’m having him accompany me?
“I agree,” Holmes readily nodded, causing me to laugh without thinking.
“Now that you mention it, do you have a girlfriend?”
I’d thought that he had a good relationship with Aoi-chan, but I was apparently mistaken. But since he’s so smart and erudite, I’d expect him to have a girlfriend.
“Seriously? Someone like you would encounter many women, right?”
“…There’s a unique part about me. When I’m with someone else, I tend to figure them out, for the most part. I can tell if they’re lying or trying to deceive, and if they’re being calculative. I see too much into others.”
I nodded to Holmes’ statement.
Indeed, he would definitely see through his companions.
No matter how perfect a girl’s lies are, Holmes would still know it all.
“On top of seeing too much about others, I also had a bad experience with the first girl I dated. It ended with a painful betrayal…”
“You were betrayed by the first girl you dated?”
Surprised, I interrupted him. I never thought he would hold such a past behind him.
“Yes, and that’s why I’ve become apathetic towards girls. I’ve even begun thinking that it might be good to just get into fleeting relationships with girls, without getting myself invested too deeply.”
He said all that, then took a breath.
Huh? Did he just casually say all that outrageous stuff? With that elegant face?
As I maintained my silence, he continued.
“Well, this isn’t very pleasant, so please keep it between us.”
Holmes placed his index finger on his lips and grinned.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. This guy’s actually quite crafty, huh.
“Hey, so what about Aoi-chan?”
“Aoi-san, you say?”
“I thought that she’s special to you.”
Holmes said nothing in reply, but the corners of his mouth curved slightly upward.
“Ah, as I thought, she’s special, right?”
“I wonder if you can call it that. When she broke down in tears in the shop during our first meeting… it was as if I was seeing my past self.”
“Your past self?”
“Yes, the circumstances around her broken love were really similar to mine. However, I never acted like her, because I was desperate to protect my self-respect and maintain appearances even though I was hurt. While I acted that way, she cried there and then, boldly and unashamedly revealing her weakness and ugliness. I found her to be brilliant, and was jealous of her… and that’s why I wanted to help her.”
Holmes muttered while looking off into the distance, as if he was taking to himself.
He seemed to give off an air that made me feel that he didn’t want to discuss it further, so I was lost for words.
“B-But, it’s too bright today, don’t you think? The weather’s way too hot for autumn, right?”
Unsure of what to say, I changed the subject and fanned myself with a hand.
“The temperature has gone up to twenty-six degrees today, after all. Would you like to use this?” Holmes pulled out a pocket fan from his inner pocket and offered it to me.
Wow, this guy’s so well-prepared.
While I was still in admiration of his gentlemanly behavior, I was also beginning to get a little tired of it.
“N-Nah, it’s fine. It’s not so hot that I need to use a fan.”
“I see. Shall we go for lunch, then?”
Holmes returned the fan to his pocket, his usual expression on his face.
“Yeah, I can’t wait.”
nodded vigorously, and we moved away from the Waterway Pavilion.
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- A sanmon is the most important gate of Japanese Zen Buddhist temple, and usually stands between the sōmon (outer gate) and the butsuden (Hall of Buddha).
- Aqueduct (水道) and tunnel (隧道) share the same pronunciation. Can’t think of a way to localize this misunderstanding, I’m afraid.
- A 582 meter long slope with railroad tracks.
- Nejiri means “twist” and manpo means “stroll”.
- Classical Japanese dance drama, known for the elaborate makeup worn by performers.
- A Japanese outlaw hero who stole gold and distributed it to the poor during the Sengoku period. He tried but failed to assassinate Totoyomi Hideyoshi, and was boiled alive in public along with his son.
- The full quote is “What an amazing viewǃ The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but ’tis too little, too little. These eyes of Goemon rate it worth ten thousand!”
- The giant bonfires made to form characters during the Obon festival (Refer to the prologue).