It is said, “In Japan, God is in the details.” This is something I immensely like about the people of Japan. Despite being the fastest-paced, most technologically advanced nation on earth, they have still retained sensitivity to the spiritual forces of the natural world. They manage to fuse daily 21st-century life with the reverence for divinity. It is a very poetic way to live.
Climbing up the stairs to the Nenbutsu-Ji temple, I could say that God is in the sunlight that filters down to land on the twelve hundred stone buddas, and I would be right. Or, I can be more concrete and say God is in the intricate simplicity of the Daigo-Ji Temple where I went next and still I would be right. In Kyoto, the thing about beauty is you just absorb it. In some places on earth, this is more difficult than in others.
But in Kyoto, it is exceptionally easy. From the moment you enter its temples and shrines, you feel the tranquility flowing through every beam and every rock until each step taken becomes a walking, breathing meditation. Although Kyoto is now a fragment of its former self it is easy to see why allied bombers chose to spare this beautiful city during World War II. Even its enemies respect this place.
I have truly found a new level of respect for this culture thanks to my Japanese friends. It began as we wandered through the Arashiyama bamboo forest and along banks of the Oi River. Whenever I looked around, I would be struck by some new light cast from the multifaceted prism of Japanese history. Here, amid the history of its ancestors; among the spirits of its gods and the regal beauty of this land, I was at peace.