Nara Day Trip

Nara Stone Lantern

Although only 45 mins away from Kyoto by train, Nara (奈良市) is often overlooked by time-pressed travellers but, as Japan’s first permanent capital with over 1300 years of history, it’s worth the short diversion. After a chilly trip to Kyoto back in March I spent half a day exploring it on foot. Read more

Inbetween The Lines

JR-Metro Maps Overlayed

Since beginning a full-time job in Tokyo I’ve been taking the train to work, and everyday it leaves me with the weirdest feeling of having just passed through the bowels of some otherworldly monster. Read more

Sagano Bamboo Forest

Sagano bamboo forest

When writing about places of natural beauty it’s always tempting to overuse every adjective in the book, so I’ll try and hold back the gushing prose when describing Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama (嵐山), on the western outskirts of Kyoto. Read more

Kōtō-in Temple

Kōtō-in Temple

Of all the temples and shrines I’ve visited in Kyoto, my favourite has to be the little-known Kōtō-in (高桐院), a sub-temple of Daitoku-ji (大徳寺). I discovered it purely by chance four years ago on my first trip to Kyoto and decided to pay a return visit. Read more

Haruki Murakami and the Japanese Mind

1Q84

Walking home the other evening, a man passed me on a bicycle with a cat riding in the front basket. While this wasn’t terribly unusual, what took me aback was that both he and his cat were wearing matching stripy jumpers and top hats (think Dr. Seuss). Even stranger was the fact that nobody else bat an eyelid. Read more

Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion

Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Unlike the brightly decorated temples found in China, most in Japan are fairly sedate, preferring natural wood finishes over ornate red, green and gold motifs. Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) in Kyoto, otherwise know as the Golden Pavilion, is an exception with the majority of its exterior covered in gold leaf. Read more

Ryōan-ji Temple

The Temple of the Dragon at Peace

Something you’re bound to see plenty of in Kyoto are zen gardens, otherwise known as “dry landscape” gardens (枯山水 karesansui). One of the finest examples can be found at Ryōan-ji (龍安寺) located in the northwest of the city which is thought to have been built in the 15th century. Read more

Kennin-ji Temple

Kennin-ji Temple

After a chilly walk along the Philosophers Path in the morning, I headed south to Gion and the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto – Kennin-ji (建仁寺). Dating back to 1202, its grandeur is not immediately apparent but step inside and you’ll enter another world. Read more