El Dorado, Gion

Duane and I were coming from Yasaka-jinja Shrine located in Gion, the entertainment district in Kyoto, when we decided to go to go on a hunt for a street mentioned in Lonely Planet

“If you walk from Shijō-dōri along the northern section of Hanami-kōji and take your third left, you will find yourself on Shimbashi (sometimes called Shirakawa Minami-dōri), which is one of Kyoto’s most beautiful streets and, arguably, the most beautiful street in all of Asia, especially in the evening and during cherry-blossom season.”

Simple enough instructions.

There were lots of traffic and piled up buildings in Gion–We were curious “I’m wondering how the most beautiful street is here.” “…How do they know it’s the most beautiful.” “…”They did say, ‘Arguably.’”

Winding steps, map consultations and a stop for coffee to regroup later, we started calling the hunt for Shimbashi El Dorado because we simply could not find it–There are very few street signs in Japan–We kept twisting through streets, following the bridge, peeking into tiny street shrines. But amidst our wanders, stopping to look once again at the map, we saw this woman walking underneath a Sarah Moon poster (which I didn’t then know was part of Kyotographie). The knife masking the little girl’s eyes, the hat on the old woman casting shadow over her eyes–they are the same (look at their hands). This snapshot portrait of the woman in time is more beautiful to me than the Shirakawa Minami-dōriwe we finally ended up finding…El Dorado was never a place, it was a person.

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