There was something about the smell of the timber in the century-old temple that took me to another place.  And as I sat in silence, the feeling returned - I had missed it.  

After several weeks straight of active travel, the beautiful, zen-like feeling that I had gotten so used to in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand had all but disappeared.  I needed a Buddhist temple fix - to be immersed in a place of peace and calm, to bring life back to what is really important.

Luckily I am in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan where the challenge here has been to narrow down which of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage listed temples, shrines and castles to visit.  And that's just around the city.  It's like being in a living coffee-table book, full of images of Japan's simplicity and beauty. 

This morning, still feeling zen-like, I got up early to visit one of the very popular temples to enjoy some solitude before the crowds arrived.  Good morning 200 teenage schoolchildren on a school excursion!  No amount of zen was ever going to make that beautiful moss-covered hillside tranquil today.

Kyoto is a place of such stark contrasts where yesterday took me from the Shinkansen (bullet train), travelling at breakneck speed, to walking on a busy city street, to sitting in complete silence in a temple beneath the biggest timber beams I have ever seen.  Across the road I indulged in a shiatzu massage, then visited a department store full of mass consumerism on the largest scale.  Something for everyone.

Only fifteen minutes away by bus today, the ancient wisdom oozed as I walked the Path of Philosophy, surrounded by trees, water and frogs that chirped. Later in the morning, my wish was granted and solitude came while at a hillside shrine.  It's easy to forget that the city streets are so close.

Sometimes the zen is just around the corner and appears when you least expect it.  

Chances of having Ginkakuji temple to myself - NIL!

Chances of having Ginkakuji temple to myself - NIL!

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