Thursday, 12 March 2015

The First And Last Word In The World.

Kyoto, Japan. An intoxicating place filled with temples, shrines, and surrounded by mountains. Kyoto is a keystone in Japanese culture. This is never more apparent than when exploring Kyoto’s many heritage sights. But I feel the real magic is to be found venturing off the beaten path into the mountains and the forests that encroach the city from every side. Here you can find a temple, a shrine, or a quiet wooded area to yourself. Just sit for a while and soak in the silence and the colours. Throughout the year Kyoto is painted by it’s many flowers and leaves. Nearly all temple gardens have something in bloom regardless of the season.

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!

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