Hello everyone. For the past few months my wife and I haven’t driven anywhere really new and that might explain why I haven’t offered many new road trip destinations in the past while. One of the reasons for this is simply that we have already been to every major site in Kansai. By major site, I mean anything listed as UNESCO, National Treasure, Important Cultural Property and/or anything recommended in the Lonely Planet guide for Japan and for Kyoto and also recommended sites in the UK Rough Guide. Now this would be a tall order for any traveler roaming through Japan with a JR Pass and a back-pack, but my wife Yoko and I have been driving up and down Western Japan for about 8 years now and have truly hit the bulk of it.
Last weekend we paid a visit to one of our most favorite places in Kyoto. Ohara is a really fine look at past life in Japan, long before there were cars and concrete, and long after the 15th Century civil war period. The Tokugawa era was on of peace, tranquility and prosperity, a time when the tea ceremony, shodo and kimonos became famous, a time for which Japanese Zen Buddhism is famous. Sanzen-In is a place that in my mind encompasses all the aspects of that mysterious and beautiful time and anyone rich or poor, Japanese or otherwise, who has not had the opportunity to visit the impressive UNESCO site should put it on their first-list of places to visit.
Sanzen-In is a special kind of Okuno-In which we also see at Koya-san, another key favorite destination of this type. This picture was taken on a miserably cold, rainy day in the spring. If I had to recommend a ‘best’ time, I would say go in the autumn when the skies are clear and some of the Momiji are in fine form. Inside it possible to take your shoes off and dangle your feet off the hashira facing the ancient Japanese garden and ponder what it must have been like to live so peacefully in the early 18th Century. Having said that, perhaps an even better way to get a sense for this is to stay in a temple at Koya-san for two or three nights and do nothing but eat rice and meditate. Not only does this get you potentially one step closer to ‘enlightenment’, it also has the added benefit of allowing you to lose some of the excess tonnage you acquired during the holiday!
Either destination is sure to surprise and impress. Good luck and drive defensively.
Martin Werner Zander, Partner in the Smith’s School of English Company
Owner,Smith’s School in Kotoen
月謝制のスミス英会話 甲東園校 仁川 門戸厄神 逆瀬川