My trip to Kyoto

Kyoto five hundred BuddhasA few days ago I returned from Kyoto, where Kaspa and I had spent a couple of weeks on our first half-holiday half-pilgrimage to the city where our form of Buddhism was founded.

What have I brought home with me? Apart from a love of heated toilet seats…

We witnessed a lot of beauty on our trip. Five hundred Buddhas carved by a single monk over a decade, scattered through the woods behind his tiny temple. Geishas slipping through the streets of Gion. Bento boxes with nine delicious different dishes, presented like jewels. Calm temple gardens with their carefully shaped trees and shrubs, any stray leaves swept from the rich mossy floor as soon as they fall.

I will carry this beauty with me. But more than anything, I have been soaked in the spirit of the Japanese people. This is what has inspired us to spring clean our flat on our return (I won’t tell you how long we hadn’t cleaned our windows for…), and to raise money for a huge new Buddha for the front of the temple. This is what makes me smile as I type.

What is this spirit? It’s hard to put my finger on without falling into racial stereotyping, which can be dangerous. Japanese people are as various and surprising as people from any other nation. And, of course, there are always shadow sides to all cultures. But let me try.

What affected me most was the care and attention people brought to their work, whether that was directing pedestrians safely around roadworks, serving us in shops or cleaning the tiles outside the subway. People were deferential to each other – noticing what others needed, and frequently showing their respect by bowing. There was a quiet settled feeling about the place – no hurry, let’s do this properly and with love – which soaked into me.

I’m a real homebody, and I need persuading to leave my little castle/temple. It was so good to come back to the sangha & our animals. But when we go away, even if just to a neighbouring town, we come home with different eyes, and we can suddenly see what needs to be done. Not because of “oughts” or because of what other people think of us, but because we feel moved to, by love.

Where is it that fills you with inspiration? A local forest? The sea? The bench in your back garden? When can you get there?


(I run online mindful writing classes and Writing Towards Healing is half price from today til the 1st of March when we’ll start – read more here).