Location: Kyoto

Week: 3

Days Travelled: 15

We traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto, via a few days in Mt Fuji. Fuji-san holds a great significance in Japanese folklore and tradition, previously seen as both a benevolent goddess and sleeping monster. These days, the Japanese view Fuji as their backbone and watchful guardian.

Actually made of several overlapping and dormant volcanoes, its last eruption was over 300 years ago and the effects of it can still be seen. One of the most beautiful places we walked through was a forest growing in volcanic spill over, where only 10cm of topsoil means the tree roots stretch and climb over the surface, leaving space for verdant mosses sprinkled with the last of spring snow to carpet the gaps between.

We lived on the the banks of one of Fuji’s five lakes and were blessed with gorgeous weather, a few glorious sunny days and one restful rainy day. It was a place of intense natural beauty complimented by art and craft celebrating Fuji. You can see some of my pics and videos of Fuji on my Instagram if you feel inclined.

It couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the lights and sounds of Tokyo, whilst also providing a beautiful transition into the peaceful suburban scape of Kyoto.

From the moment we arrived via the awesome bullet train into the famed ancient capital of Japan, I knew I was in love.

The quiet vibe of bicycles, clean waterways flowing through the city’s narrow winding streets and the traditional buildings which escaped the destruction of WW2 – it has an old magic to it.

The main lesson I have learnt here – and in Japan in general – is the innate capacity of human beings to somehow make the world more beautiful.

The way we are harming the planet as consumers is horrible, but our ability to elevate it as artists and makers is breathtaking.

A forest of trees is majestic, a home made out of those trees a potential marvel.

A field of cotton is beautiful, a piece of art painted on a piece of canvas made out of that cotton can be life changing.

Flowers are precious and should be cared for, yet we can cut branches and trim stalks to make something entirely new, as in the ancient art of Ikebana (pictured).

I am conscious of fetishising a culture anytime I go overseas. There are well documented accounts of Japan’s issues with oil spills, whale hunting, plastic burning and many more problems that come with the process of industrialisation and being the apex species on this planet. However, I do have to note there seems to be, at the individual and community level perhaps more than the governmental, a deep reverence and respect for nature here; a sense of being in harmony with the planet opposed to on it.

This was perhaps epitomised while watching some young mothers with their three year-old children picking stray bits of plastic out of Kyoto’s main river on a sunny afternoon.

We have hands, stand on two legs and can interact with the world in front of us, unlike any other creature on the planet. Perhaps a measure of our life could be what we can make and bring into this world that previously couldn’t exist?

A unique ability to reach out into the physical world, reshape it and somehow leave it more special, more beautiful.

Sounds God-like to me.

Below is a haiku I wrote for Kyoto; following the traditional Zen format and methodology, using a single moment to encapsulate an endless now:

Old and new; comes spring

Amidst rays of cool sunlight

The heron watches

Until soon,

Zig xx