Temples and palaces

Today marks the first Friday of 2019. I’ve been enjoying a rather peaceful week of rest in Tokyo. 2018 was a busy work year for me. I moved to Tokyo in May and started working for a new company.

This was quite a big change as I switched from freelancing to regular employment, and I switched from UK culture to Japanese work culture.

As a freelancer I was able to take a lot of time off over the years to indulge in amateur and (a little) professional photography.

As a regular employee in Tokyo time has been much more limited.

However I am hopeful for the year ahead. Now that I’ve completed eight months I feel more settled and I should be able to make better use of my free time.

During this weeks holiday I had the chance take some photos and spend some time browsing through my old pictures.

I was reminded of many happy memories, especially during visits to temples and palaces around Asia. I’d like to share some of my favorite spots.

Japan

Up first is a familiar picture from my last blog post. I live quite close to Tokyo tower which is right next to Zojoji temple (増上寺).

http://www.zojoji.or.jp/

Next up is perhaps one of the most well known temple complexes in Tokyo, located in Asakusa you may recognise Sensoji (浅草寺)by the huge lantern in the gate. Just to the west of Sensoji there are a lot of traditional restaurants; it’s a very old fashioned area. And Tokyo Skytree is also nearby.

http://www.senso-ji.jp/

The next three photos are from Nezu. This temple complex is famous for the red Torii and is a favourite spot of mine. It’s a little out of the way so there are way less tourists. It’s also a short walk to Yanaka; another traditional area which is famed for the number of cats. If you ever visit Yanaka keep an eye out for cat ornaments on the rooftops.

http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/

Kyoto

I’ve included some of my favorite pictures from Kyoto below. Kyoto has so many temples. The biggest challenge there is it can get very busy and photography becomes a challenge.

Rather than naming each of these, if you are interested in temples I would suggest having a browse through the complete list on Kyoto’s own travel website – https://kyoto.travel/en

Thailand

Thailand is a beautiful country for a cultural tour, there are so many temples. I think Wat Pho may be the most popular spot in Bangkok, but I enjoyed Wat Arun. The next two shots are taken around the ordination hall rather than the Wat itself.

I spent a couple of weeks walking all around bangkok. I can recommend an excellent book written by a journalist and a true culture / history lover – https://www.tuttlepublishing.com/authors/barrett-kenneth/22-walks-in-bangkok

While on these walks I spotted many small temples and back street areas where I could see locals and monks going about their day to day life.

The follow was taken at an interesting Chinese temple complex in Bangkok

China

From China I’d like to include Jing’an temple (Shanghai). This is a beautiful temple complex and I had a great time walking around here. I also really enjoyed watching people throw coins into the central ornament. I imagine it’s a way to pay respects.

South Korea

Seoul is where we switch from temples to palaces. The royal palaces in Seoul are strikingly beautiful. I recommend at least Gyoengbokgung and Changdeokgung, but time permitting it’s good to visit them all.

Taiwan

An honorouble mention to Taiwan. I’ve only been around Taipei. It’s not the prettiest city; due to a period of history with little building regulation, but it’s improving and most importantly I found the Taiwanese to be among the friendliest of Asian people I’ve met. I spent a bit of time at the temple of Confucius. Not only was it nice to see this temple, it was interesting to learn a lot about Confucius whose teachings I think are still meaningful today.

Hong Kong

I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of temples in Hong Kong, but I normally stay nearby Man Mo and it’s full of beautiful lights. It’s an excellent spot to catch the vibe of locals paying respects.

If you have any favourite temples, palaces, or churches etc. around the world I would be happy if you would share with me.

 

Portable Loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and; Fish in The Pool

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

I found their blog; you can see some pictures of Portable Loft and the owners plus their friends / family here http://blog.naver.com/jungurion/220896163629. The Lollipop website http://www.portablelollipop.com/

The cafe and store are located in Yangjae Citizen’s Forest; totally off the tourist route, but not far from Gangnam. About ten different buses from Gangnam pass by the area.

It was a lucky find, I happened to stay in an Airbnb apartment above the cafe for the week.

The owners don’t speak English, but despite that they made me feel super at home. Through pointing and gestures I managed to order their delicious hand drip coffee in the morning. They also have two draught craft beers on tap and a selection of other drinks.

The owners gave me one of their postcards which is based on a hand drawn sketch of the cafe. You will recognise the lady in the postcard and blog pictures by the distinctive hairstyle 🙂

Portable Loft really inspired me. If I were to have my own cafe / shop business this is pretty much the blueprint I’d love to create it based upon. Some of the charming features I loved were:

  • Hand chosen craft beers and hand drip coffee that show care and love for quality
  • Beautiful natural interior decoration – a little bit ‘Scandinavian wood feel’
  • They do have a food menu, but it’s literally one cooker behind the bar, so cute
  • A lot of customers appear to be friends and I saw groups come and enjoy relaxing and talking to the owners
  • The cafe and shop show an interest in art and design and they have built a really interesting collection of products.
  • They are off the beaten path so I think most of their customers are local or may come based on word of mouth etc. no unappreciative tourists!
  • They have a music system in one corner and they have a pile of vinyl and CDs next to it and their selection of music is beautiful. A lot of acoustic and calming sounds.

Talking of music I came across the fish in the pool by Hekuto Pascal album while sitting in Portable Loft. I didn’t know what it was, but realising it was Japanese I snapped a pic of an empty CD cover with Japanese text on it. I later found the album on Spotify:

This is some seriously beautiful music.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this music actually brought me to tears a few times.

The album is mostly instrumental, but the final track has lyrics and there is something soft, sweet and magical about the melody and vocals. Perhaps there is an undertone of sadness. It’s a songs that makes me feel an appreciation for people and places, but also a sadness for lost opportunities and lost times.

Portable Loft is one of the reasons I love to travel. Forget the tourist checklist, I really appreciate the chance to see a corner of local culture and to meet people that care about art and design and customers.

I recently came across a book called Do / Design: Why Beauty Is The Key To Everything by Alan Moore.

It’s a great little book that takes about good design and why that matters in life. This resonates strongly with me and I think design along with community are two of the most important things that can bring enjoyment to everyday life.

Portable Loft hit’s both of these perfectly.

Look Up, Head Raised High

Look up, head raised high,
Beauty hides plainly in sight,
Not just a blue sky,

In modern rushed lives,
Head oft down, in phones we drown,
Wake up! it’s a choice.

 


I recall a conversation with my mothers husband when I first moved to London. We were driving and walking around the city. My mothers husband has fond memories of walking around the city when he was younger. He has an eye for detail and was looking up at the buildings as we walked around.

When you walk around a city, it’s easy to only look straight ahead.

Even easier to look at your phone.

But when you look up a whole new world opens itself up to you. Not just the sky. Little details; ornamentation, gargoyles, feet hanging out a balcony, a lady drinking a cup of tea at a window.

This is what inspired me to have a go at a Haiku about this.

These pictures are quite striking examples of the detail to be found looking up; framed beautifuly by the sky. But even in day to day life I am often surprised by what I see just walking around the streets.

So try it out, put your phone away and look up, with your head raised high!