Friday, July 25, 2008

Encountering true kindness in Kyoto

All the travelling must be messing with my head because by the time I get to Kyoto I only have my Ugg boots and a pair of high heels in my suitcase. So much for walking around in the soupy heat…

I spot a pair of reflexology slippers at a 100 Yen shop and promptly decide that it would be heavenly to go and discover the temples and Zen gardens while having a walking foot massage.

Well, woe is me. Two hours into my day the pressure points are getting dangerously sensitive and the sun is burning down by now so going barefoot is not an option. I approach two daintily dressed Japanese ladies and use hand gestures to ask for a shoe shop in the area. Their facial expressions don’t look very encouraging. They stop a man on his bicycle to get a second opinion. He seems more positive and gestures for me to get on his bicycle.

I pass the ladies a questioning look, ‘can I trust him?’. ‘Go on,’ they beckon with bright smiles. Just a few days ago I was writing about kindness and here it is again – a helping hand when my feet need it most.

Soon I am riding a stranger’s bicycle through the little back streets of northern Higashiya in Kyoto, while he is running ahead of me in the steadily increasing heat. After about ten minutes we reach a small alley where I buy simple clogs for 1000 Yen (about $9). Not the most comfortable walking shoes, but so much better than any other option I can think of.

“Arigato,” I keep saying to the bicycle man with the dishevelled hair and the missing front tooth, "thank you".

He makes sure that I know how to find my way back to where I started and when I look again he is gone. A true act of kindness asks for nothing in return.

I walk out into the sunshine and beam my thanks out into the sky. ‘Arigato, arigato, arigato’, for my shoes, my feet and the ability to walk around this spiritual place.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lize

What a beautiful story!

Hope you got some good pictures.


Jenny Smith said...

Quite special. Sadly enough probably not something you'd find very often in the UK. People are afraid of strangers most of the time, not kind. Jen, Manchester

Sunel said...

Wil net sĂȘ ek LOVE jou stories, mis nie 'n enkele een nie!!!