In nearby Uji my friend and I met an elderly gentleman who kindly showed us his favourite temple in town. Small and unassuming with a beautiful garden. We were then taken to a famous shrine. We stood at the threshold under the tori. Our impromptu guide explained that every shrine is guarded by two lions at its entrance. One has its mouth open and stands for the first letter in the Japanese alphabet あ sounds like ‘Ah’, the second has it’s mouth closed and represents the last letter in the alphabet ん sounds like ‘um’*. Quite literally the first and last word in the world.
I feel it’s these little details that will keep you coming back to this place. Majestic and enigmatic, you will be compelled to keep exploring and that is exactly what I intend to do.
*I looked up the phonetic symbols without any assistance from a native speaker so they could well be wrong. Please forgive my ignorance!