I’ve been to Happy Terrace on the 15th floor of Kyoto Station many times before. It’s never the same. Sometimes the still frigid March wind has nearly blown my coat off. Other times the fresh night air is a welcome relief from steamy over-heated rooms. That said, I’ve not been here when the hot and humid nights of summer turn the city into a sauna. (I’ll pass, thank you.)
If the weather is fine the city spreads out toward the mountains, sparkling like a jewel against the night or glints like mica in the setting sun. The view of the atrium as I look down into the station from this height is splendid, too. I never tire of it. I make time to admire it every occasion I have to stop in this city.
Although not everyone loves the station’s architecture, I do. Even more, I marvel that all of this once existed only in someone’s mind. And here it is now in glass, steel and concrete.
This morning the air is brisk but the sun’s warmth is quite comfortable as I arrive at the top of the escalator. Cleaners wipe the window ledges and scrub down the escalator rails. Gardeners prune a hedge and water the potted plants. Two whippet-like expats, who look as if they have sprinted up the 15 flights of stairs, are working through sun salutations in perfect sequence.
Nothing quite as ambitious for me, thank you. I’m here to enjoy the bamboo-ringed garden. I have an hour before my train leaves, just enough time to revisit a favourite spot and relax. Adrenaline wants to run with the kick of my morning coffee and the journey ahead, but I resist.
The sign I spotted outside Higashi-Honganji temple on the way to the station read: Now life is living you. I’m in the mood to surrender to that. I park my suitcase next to a bench, sit and pull out my notebook. I breathe.
The grid of gray concrete slabs and squares of grass are wonderfully calming and restful. Shadows of clouds passing across the sun flit across the tableau. A dragonfly darts overhead and a little breeze ripples the single reflecting pool.
That’s when I hear the wind chimes in the rustling bamboo. I’m not sure why, but the little tinkle draws me over to spot the slip of paper moving the clapper. However, as hard as I look I see nothing. Not wanting to add a crick in the neck to jet lag, I follow the slender stems of the bamboo to the grasses below and bring my chin to my chest in a long stretch. That’s when I see the “bell.”
I laugh. What artful artifice. So joyfully Japanese.