Mind games in Arashiyama

«Playin’ those mind games…»

John Lennon’s soundtrack rhythms my steps as I move like a ghost from Saga Arashiyama station towards the silhouette of the western hills. My physical persona has arrived in Japan the very same morning, on an overseas flight from Amsterdam to Kansai airport. My conscious mind has yet to follow though – so I look at myself as a stranger, a dazed vagabond approaching Kyoto for the first time, with the eyes of an explorer.

Starting my stay-over in Kyoto at the Arashiyama neighbourhood has been a well-established ritual for several years now; a simple beer and yakisoba lunch along the shaded western river banks, followed by a matcha green tea at Okochi Sanso garden. From there, at the top of the hill, the view extends to a mountain temple on the other side of the valley.

Daihikaku Senko-ji is a somewhat hidden spot, which I reach by walking along the river into the mountains, occasionally soaking my feet in the clear waters, here where the city and the mountains interlace and the reign of the kami begins. The stillness of the forest is only occasionally interrupted by the Romantic Saga train running towards Kameoka and the temple bell echoing in the forest. And then, suddenly again, that song in my head: “So keep on playing those mind games together, faith in the future, out of the now…”.

Following the notes like a dream, I let myself drift with the stream and when I reach Togetsu Bridge I cross the path back to the here and now. It is with a renewed presence, similar to the clear waters, that I travel downtown. There I have friendship, shelter, and the full range of earthly pleasures this city has to offer awaiting me. And still, I know that my place isn’t yet there:
“We’re playing those mind games forever / Projecting our images in space and in time.”

My home for this time, I know, is Pension Mind Games.