Obviously, “skirt chasing” is not cool, but what about “kimono chasing”? I’m embarrassed to admit that this is exactly what I find myself doing when we arrive at Tenryuji. For some reason never fully explained to me, this stunning temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district is a supremely popular place for dressing up in traditional garb and doing photo sessions. Everywhere you look, you find local couples festooned in their finest outfits, positioning themselves in front of the best background, bathed in the most golden afternoon light, snapping selfies in a kind of reverse cosplay battle to see who can look the most conservative. And it’s not just couples practicing for their honeymoons. It’s young women as well, in pairs and trios, decked out in the most beautiful kimonos you’re ever going to see, complete with sandals and obis, snapping photos of each other and sending them off to the ether via social media. I don’t know what comes over me, but suddenly I’ve turned my camera’s photo function to video and I’m hurriedly trailing a pair of young women in red and green kimonos, trying to capture the essence of this classic Japanese scene. My wife, of course, is shooting daggers at me, with a “What do you think you are doing?” look in her eyes. “But it’s such a cool scene, hon! Japanese temple, people in traditional clothing – like a samurai movie come to life — I’ve gotta capture this!” My wife is right, naturally – as she almost always is. How would I like it if I was walking along a San Francisco street and someone started stalking me with a camera, paparazzi style, trying to capture a Typical American Male in his natural habitat? Reluctantly, I put away my camera, bow in apology, and slink to my corner.
(But I DID get a cool video!)

Kimonos or not, Tenryuji is a gorgeous temple, particularly during the fall when the leaves are cycling through their autumn colors. Built on the site of a ninth century Zen temple, Tenryuji was established in 1339 by the shogun Ashikaga Takauji in memory of the Emperor Go-Daigo. It’s a place to relax, to admire the beautiful pond dotted strategically with rocks and koi, and to enjoy shojin ryori, the traditional Buddhist vegetarian meal offered at certain temples (and high-end restaurants). Our delicious lunch there includes tofu, miso soup, rice, pickles and a variety of root vegetables. It’s not cheap, but it’s certainly traditional.

And it’s way better than kimono chasing, right hon?

(An important step in becoming a doctor is taking the Hippocratic Oath. One of its promises is, “First, do no harm” (“primum non nocere”). I think this is an appropriate oath for travelers as well. Don’t stalk people for photos. Pick up your trash. Honor local traditions. Leave the place better than you found it. And this works on the homefront as well. Respect the space and customs of your friends and family. Take your shoes off at the door if that’s what they want. To borrow from Gandhi, “Be the tact you want to see in the world.”)