I'm in Kyoto for 3 weeks. This was a trip that's a year late. Looking back, I remembered writing this in my journal last year:
Ubud for restoration. Kyoto for inspiration.
If there were some cities in the world that I felt at home in or inspired by, these were the top 2 candidates. I'll probably add Reykjavik, Iceland for otherworldliness, but that's a story for another post.
I was awe-struck by Kyoto during my previous trip here in 2017, so much so that I vowed to return one day. Something about this place really spoke to me deeply to the core. Something about the traditions that's been loyally and quietly passed on generations after generations. Something about their devotion to craftsmanship that's tear-jerkingly heart-moving. Something about how 100-year businesses are sustained not (just) out of profit, but as a service to society. Something about the people and how they conduct themselves around others - reserved yet well-mannered, stoic yet considerate, traditional yet creative - and perhaps seeing a teeny bit of myself in them (*humblebrag). Something about how walking among the heritage houses of Higashiyama felt like walking home.
So this time I decided to return to Kyoto for a longer period of time, to immerse in a craft and the culture. I want to learn by living here, not just read about it. I want to pick up kintsugi, the traditional craft of repairing broken pottery with gold. I want to learn wabi-sabi - what it means to find perfection in imperfection. I want to heal from (metaphorically) fixing brokenness with gold.
I want to take long, slow walks along the Philosopher's Path lined with cherry blossoms in full bloom, and write haiku that’s inspired by nature in it's prettiest pink. It is after all, hanami season now. I want to offer prayers and contemplate how life ebbs and flows in seasons, in the century-old temples of Kyoto. I want to stuff myself full of Kyogashi - traditional intricate confections in a style unique to Kyoto.
Besides the traditional, I’m also checking out the local co-working/design/startup scene a bit. How are the locals translating their values and beliefs of tradition in modern context? I'm super curious to learn this, for selfish reasons:
How am I to make sense of this inspiration from the past, so that I can use them moving forward, back at home in Singapore?
How does tradition + creativity look like?