My new favourite city – Kyoto

I’ve had three weekends in Japan so far, and have chosen to spend two of them in Kyoto;  I absolutely adore it there.  Everything is exquisite – the temples, the gardens, the little streets with wooden houses, the little waterways lined with cherry trees, the tiny craft studios and cafes – it has to be one of the most picturesque cities in the world.

My first visit coincided with peak cherry blossom viewing, so I went to the park which is the place to see the blossom, and headed for the most famous cherry tree in Kyoto –

It’s a huge old tree, which everyone wants to be photographed in front of.  I sat and watched it as the sun started to set, and there was even a stall selling pink fizz just to complete the pink experience –

There were hundred of girls in kimonos, with various accessories, having their picture taken in front of the blossom –

or in other picturesque locations –

– and even Little Bo-Peep had left her sheep for the day to come and send a few texts from a blossomy bridge –

One thing I’ve learnt on my travels is: if there’s a queue, get on the end of it, as it invariably leads to something either delicious or interesting.  So when I saw this line inside a temple –

I immediately jumped onto the end and stood patiently, wondering what we were waiting for.  It turned out to be a queue to look at a particular cherry tree through an attractively shaped window –

I hadn’t realised until then, that individual cherry trees could become celebrities in their own right.

But I was also very taken with the raked patterns in the gravel, and since that first experience, I’ve become a tad obsessed with raked zen gardens, and have a hundred photos just to prove it …

Swirls and lines –

A subtle design with perfect symmetry –

A bold stripe seen through another window – without a queue this time –

This one is supposed to evoke mountains, but looks more like an upturned flowerpot to me –

Or working with nature to enhance and harmonise –

I was smitten with these gardens and had decided to create my very own zen garden, until I read a book on Kyoto

– and decided that perhaps I’ll stick to admiring other people’s efforts instead.

Or …

– sweeping seems to be a possible alternative, for those unable to commit to years of  training.  Admittedly sweeping doesn’t have the cachet of raking, but it’s extremely worthy and much easier to master.

Then I’ll sit on my immaculately swept path and admire the view –

or sit and marvel at my pristine stepping stones –

As Goethe said, ‘Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean.’  I think he would have approved of Japan.

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