Archive for April, 2011


green tea in a green tea room

Taking tea in a green room……guess what colour the tea was?

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Welcoming strangers

This morning, close to Kyoto station, an elderly Japanese man approached us, held out his hand to shake mine, and said “Thank you for coming to Japan”.

He asked us where we came from and when we said “Scotland” told us about the times he’d had in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. He then asked if we’d mind helping him with his English a little and produced a crumpled set of notes with Japanese and English sentences written in his own handwriting (at least I think it was his own). He wanted to check his translations and understand the nuances of meaning. One of the phrases which provoked a fair exchange was “I was born in the year of the tiger”. Would an English speaking person say that, he wanted to know. We explained that in the UK at least there was no general tradition of allocating an animal to a year in the way it is done in other countries.

Ah, he said, you don’t have the same twelve animals? Which animals do you have?

We pointed out we didn’t have any. He thought that was very strange, how we would just say we were born in the year “xxxx” and quote a four figure number. Suddenly, I felt we’d missed out on something!

We discussed maybe half a dozen other phrases with him, and then he thanked us profusely and zipped away. Goodness, he could move fast!

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me in Japan. It’s never happened in any other country, and, sadly, in many countries, when someone approaches in such a fashion, you can’t help but be suspicious, and suspect they’re going to get round to asking for money. That’s never, ever happened to me in Japan.

On the train from Kyoto to Tokyo I reflected on the exchange and thought lots of things. How do we treat visitors to Scotland? Are we as welcoming? How wonderful that elderly people continue to have such enthusiasm to learn. How awful that my meagre attempts to learn Japanese have stalled so badly! Time to get that learn Japanese book out again! And how wonderful when learning a language, to have the courage to approach strangers and politely request conversation to improve your understanding and your skills.

This little exchange made me feel it’s a privilege and an honour to be visiting this country.

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On the day a third of the world watched a single wedding (you know who I mean!), I spotted this couple walking in the grounds of a temple in Kyoto.

young Japanese couple

Here’s my theme for today – LOVE – let’s spread more of it…..

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One great thing about the rain….

heavy rain

….is that it makes plants shine and sparkle….


……and turns the world green….

green world

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When I look through my camera lens, I don’t just notice what the lens is pointing at. I notice what lies around, in front of, or behind that object. It’s the whole image which I find satisfying. Not just a photo of a leaf, or a flower, or a whatever, but a photo of it in it’s context….the emergent object within its environment…..a holistic photograph?
Take a look at these photos of acer leaves and see what I mean?

acer and bamboo

acer before the bridge

glorious green acer

red acer in a green world

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Just around the corner from the hotel where I’m staying in Kyoto is the Higashi-Honganji temple where they are currently celebrating Shinran’s 750th anniversary.

One of the amazing things to appear there today are these wonderful murals made from tulips….

Higashi Honganji floral tribute

Higashi Honganji floral tribute

Higashi Honganji floral tribute

and, finally…….a close up….

Higashi Honganji floral tribute

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As I wandered today I wondered……don’t we all perceive the world differently? If our stories, our personal stories, shape our selves, which is how it seems to me, then our experiences will frame our present reality. We experience today in the light of our past experiences and our imagined futures. Stories all have this movement….from the past, to the present, to the future – a beginning, a middle and an end I suppose.
So one of the most powerful ways in which memories and dreams can create our present is how they frame our perception and our interpretation of today’s experiences.

through the round window

What frames are you aware of? Which memories, which dreams or fears, create the frames of your present?

The other thing I wondered about today was about the uniqueness of our individual perspectives. We can only experience the world as a subject, as this subject, living this life. So, how does the world look from your unique, subjective perspective?

room with a view

(this is a view from the tatami mats, across the strips of carpet, towards the Japanese garden – this is a view from where I was kneeling)

Finally, how can we share these ways of seeing? How can we develop our inter-subjective experience? One way, for me, is through the sharing of our stories. You can share your experience by telling me it. I can share mine, by telling you…..or by showing you what I caught with my camera…..(I’m sure you can think of other ways too)

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