The undecided overcast above Osaka resolved into storm clouds by the time my train reached Kyoto station. I wasn’t the only one eager to arrive in this city. A monsoon swept through the Kansai region from the south by way of the Philippines. Kyoto escaped the brunt of the storm, but there was a persistent drizzle that dampened the rest of my Japanese sojourn.
I could never have predicted that the precipitation would be a blessing in disguise. The rain washed the streets clean of tourists. It stirred life from homes of rice paper and weathered wood to resume its daily routine. After all, locals do not have the same luxury afforded to visitors. Life does not break in stormy weather.
Geishas led their apprentices to their next appointments across tessellated streets. It was no different than seeing a mother shuttle their overachieving child from the piano studio to the soccer field. A funeral procession passed me by without concern of their rites transforming into a spectacle for the sightseer. Students dressed in modest uniforms huddled together seeking shelter under a single umbrella; they had the crust to swear at the rain, oblivious of the hallowed Shinto grounds underneath their feet.
Strip away the hyperbole and the simple truth remains: Kyoto is a magnificent city, with so much culture and tradition collected over countless decades. Yet, it is astonishing to see how a little rain can reveal how spectacularly ordinary life can be in this enigmatic city.