Movement is essential for growth. Only when we travel do we experience situations and encounter individuals who change us forever. When we cross borders and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations we open up our minds, whilst simultaneously increasing empathy and often gratitude towards our own lives. It is important for our mental health to break free from the monotony of everyday life and embrace the world. Cities and spaces often inspire feelings, a city that embraces a particularly spiritual and peaceful presence is Kyoto in Japan.
This city has existed for over a thousand years, as the hub of Japanese culture. The city has over 1,500 spiritual sites including Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and Christian churches. Once, very long ago, the city of Kyoto was named Heian-kyo, which translates to ‘Capital of Peace and Tranquility’. A recent visitor to the city describes it in the following words,
“Kyoto is a city of temples and tranquility. It’s a silent city, allowing you to feel your senses heighten and find stillness, if you please. With soft colors, bamboo smells and lots of green…”
While a city like this is bound to be filled with tourists every season, there are always plenty of silent places here that one can go to seek refuge and clear the mind. Kiyomizu-dera, an old Buddhist temple and UNESCO world heritage site has a back exit, which leads one directly to an ancient regal cemetery. More often than not one finds themselves alone in this tranquil area, which clings to the mountainside.
The clash between modernity and history is apparent in this city. While Kyoto treasures tradition and ritual, it continues to progress with the way of the world. To accommodate the travellers, the city has a combination of modern designs as well as ‘Kyoto culture’ – a unique tapestry of influences from imperial nobility, samurai warriors, silk traders and Zen Buddhists. Hence its historic spiritual influence allows it to retain its peaceful atmosphere even during busy months, making this city particularly appealing.
Kyoto is a city that inspires individuals to seek what they are looking for, inside of themselves. A space that can evoke such strong feelings of calm is definitely worth visiting. Flying across the earth to another city and culture only to find that all people are in fact similar gives humans a particular sense of comfort within the global community. A sense of safety is derived from the fact that humans so far away can be so similar to you and what your familiar with. Travel, be uncomfortable and experience positive growth!