Posts Tagged ‘Kyoto’

We passed by this temple while on the Philosophers walk, a tranquil path leading along the foot of the hills on the eastern idea of Kyoto. It leads to the Silver Temple at Ginkakuji, but when we saw the crowds there we turned back to visit this hidden gem instead.

The Honen-in site dates back to the end of the 17th century but commemorates the life and teaching of a priest called Honenko-Genku (1133-1212), who was interested in how the teachings of the Buddha could be applied to everyone, not just the elite. 








Amitha buddha





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bell at the Shoren-in temple, Kyoto, sonorous when struck…

Isn’t it odd that we so rarely examine the background to or assumptions behind our words?  This is at least so in English – I cannot speak (no pun intended) for other languages.  For example, our word ‘orientation’ – crucial for induction at the start of any new process, such as an MBA, is originally been rooted in the act of facing to the East, to the Orient,  or the Holy Land, or Mecca, or perhaps (for the more awake) China, India and Japan…? We seem to rely so much on needing a place to be in line with. Ideologies require an orientation or they remain meaningless.  So where is the orientation for the task of management? Does management struggle for an orientation? Where is its central point, or axis? Following Gregory Bateson, and interpreting Anthony Wilden, I’m going to say that – whatever else it might be – management is an open system with the following characteristics:

  • A question of process and form, not matter substance
  • Holistic, entirely a matter of contexts, and contexts of contexts (hierarchical and context sensitive)
  • The organised and socially mediated use of information (where both-and thinking trumps either-or for productivity)
  • Subject to positive and negative feedback loops (where negative feedback is the constraint)
  • By its nature, open to novelty, surprise and innovation
  • Communicative in its behaviours (as well as its non-behaviours, which can also be communication), and with a capacity for memory
  • Every behaviour is also a question about the appropriate response for management to make

These may be a start in the definition of an orientation beyond “making money”.  ************

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In the film Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansen’s character Charlotte is shown travelling by herself on the Shinkansen from Tokyo for a day exploring the temples and gardens of Kyoto, Japan’s ancient and atmospheric former capital city. I’ve always wanted to make the same journey, and now have the opportunity not for a day trip but six nights, and not in a hotel but in a Machiya (a small dwelling house with tatami mats in a densely built up area of the downtown, and not alone as I’m travelling with my wife, Gina.

So, is Kyoto…. different?  For any non-Japanese person visiting Japan, EVERYTHING is different, so this place is no different in that respect. 

But Kyoto does have a different vibe from the various and varied parts of Tokyo that we saw. For one thing, it’s navigable in a way that Tokyo is not. Kyoto is built on grids, encircled by green hills, and with several landmarks to make it easier to know where you are. Much more significantly, it is laid back and calm in a way that perhaps other parts of the country find more of a struggle. We are in a quiet neighbourhood, true, but nowhere does. the city feel hyper (under the surface, of course, it may be) ,…. The locals seem very respectful of your complete inability to know how to behave in a civilised manner. Live and let live (in ignorance, if so wished) personified. 

The temples are impressive, especially the gardens, but it’s the mundane, the side streets, the small shops and the woodland walks (as in the picture) where anything like zen is manifest most strikingly. There is much art and craft here, and every transaction is a complete and full experience.  Even buying a bottle of water is a ceremony that leaves you feeling you have just been a most honoured guest. 

Yes, I could most definitely write a book on personal development here. There is even a route near our house called the Philosopher’s Path!

My haiku….

Kyoto June walk,

pass through woodland in the rain.

Moths meet on the wing

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