Archive for April, 2011


green tea in a green tea room

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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…..

Read Full Post »

One great thing about the rain….

heavy rain

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


……and turns the world green….

green world

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

It strikes me there’s something thin and impoverished about a purely materialistic culture. If it’s possible to imbue meaning into the everyday then I think life shines more brightly.
It’s hard not to be impressed with how the Japanese people have coped with, and continue to cope with, the aftermath of the 11th March quake, tsunami and nuclear leaks. I’m certainly no expert in Japanese culture or people, but as I stroll around Kyoto this week, how could I fail to notice how much belief, and the symbols of belief are everywhere. The temple next door is having a 750th anniversary celebration and there are bus loads arriving every day. There isn’t a temple where there aren’t queues to say a short prayer, pull the bell rope, and ring the bell.
It’s not just impressive. It seeps in. I feel the better for just mingling…..

temple bell


bell rope

kodai ji kyoto



Read Full Post »

As April, the month of transience, draws to a close this week, so the cherry blossom, such a powerful symbol of the power of transience, is falling in the temples.

temple blossom

fallen blossom

time for blossom

Read Full Post »

Yesterday while walking to the Kyoto Museum (which turns out to be closed for refurbishment just now, by the look of things) we stumbled upon the Kaleidoscope Museum of Kyoto. Why not? Let’s pop in and have a look.
It’s a small museum, with a lot of staff, and a completely amazing range of kaleidoscopes for you to pick up and peer through. The staff don’t speak much English but when they discovered we were from Scotland we became VIPs – apparently, the kaleidoscope was invented by a Scot! There on the wall was a plaque dedicated to Sir David Brewster, the 18th century scientist who invented the kaleidoscope. And I came all the way to Kyoto to find that out?!
What a wonderful way to pass an hour or so playing with all the kaleidoscopes. Just beautiful. Before we left, we bought one, too. Here’s my attempt to take a photograph through the spy-hole of a kaleidoscope….



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »