The best part of visiting Japan is just walking around. One minute you’re in neon and traffic, the next you are in front of an ancient shrine. It was important to me in those moments to stop and feel the juxtaposition of the two energies living side by side one another. One morning while walking near a freeway I happened upon an aqueduct that had organically been turned into a beautiful ecosystem alive with cranes, turtles, and fish. Sakura blossoms fell in the river and trees shaded the vaulted walls. A grid of raised cubes came up from the water, I didn’t know if it was decorative or served a purpose. It was wabi-sabi, nature had taken over, and it was beautiful.
Gardens as Art
Nature in Japan is carefully manicured, every garden is loved and made with intention. While exploring different paths, each view held a new and perfect composition. Flowers exploded with color, saplings grew in perfect order out of old fallen trees, and water ran like brush stroke lines.
Getting out of the City
At the James Turrell House of Light in Niigata, you can really live in a dream. Inside a meditative bath of color and light, I watched as the sky outside changed color with the sunset. At the time I went, all the trees were black against the white snow on the ground. Nature was essentially colorless but here at this House of Light, bright colors of neon washed over me.
Color at Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto
Most people go to this shrine for the infinite path of bright orange gates. But if you divert off the crowd of people on the path, you’ll find winding nature walks that will take you thru bamboo forests and secret cemeteries. I’d definitely recommend spending a whole day seeing what you can find. Maybe you’ll also encounter a camouflaged orange cat who will greet you on your way.
On one of my last days in Japan, I went to see the Kinkaku-ji Temple. I followed the swarm of tourists to the edge of a lake and looked up. The sun was coming thru the rain clouds and there it was, shining gold and bright amid a grey sky. I felt the amazement that I’m sure was intended for all its viewers. I was surprised to see it again - a burst of color, like the orange arches, the flowered gardens, or the Turrell neon, the color was the Zen. It was the peace and the wonder.