In a country where the overwhelming majority of cars on the road are locally made, the streets of Kyōto are instantly recognizable for the sheer number of German saloons. And this: a Ferrari 456, a relic from the days when Ferraris weren’t explicitly designed for the nouveau riche. In its silent immodesty, it is perhaps the ultimate Kyōto car.
Persepolis burned because a 24-year-old Greek warrior-king had a point to make, and Kyōto didn’t burn because a 78-year-old American diplomat-statesman had it crossed off the list of cities to be nuked, which it had headed. And so I walked not in the ashes of the abandoned campfire that Little Boy would have left, but down alleys still lined with machiya houses instead of prefabricated condominiums, past shrines of wood and gold where people played badminton in the radiant pink dusk, and into a bathhouse whose floral tiles recalled the doorways of Shiraz. A dreamland of old Japan, not the thousand-year capital anymore, but not a radioactive desert either, and I walked into the silent mountains of Shiga Prefecture.