Whisky Magazine Issue 92
This article is 6 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.
Copyright Whisky Magazine © 1999-2016. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.
Dave Broom goes in search of his inner whisky self
The first bells woke me at 5am, a smell of incense in the air and the crunch of wooden sandals on the gravel. A bird starts singing, sounding like wet rope being twisted round wood. I get up. Little sense in lying on the mat when there's a world out there – and it's not every day that I spend time in a Zen temple. Find a bench outside the temple and catch up on the previous night's happenings. Black-shirted runners batter over the cobbles, doing their laps, going ever faster in circles. The vice-abbot appears and begins to hose the garden. As the water hits the summer ground a sudden smell of pine. The zazen session isn't until 9am, so I grab a bike and go exploring.
The Myoshin-ji temple complex is, amazingly, truely one of Kyoto's hidden treasures. While tourists head to Ryoan-ji's ju famous garden, fewer make the trek to the north west of the city to this ‘area' of 46 tatchu surrounding the main temple – home to the Myoshin-ji school of Rinzai Zen and the largest such complex in Japan.
The complex was founded in 1337 by Emperor Hanazono who converted his Imperial villa into a temple and its size has fluctuated over the centuries in parallel with the changing fortunes of Buddhism. The temple where I'm staying, Shunko-in, was established in 1590, but the current buildings dates from a reconstruction in the 18th century.
My cycling route is totally random taking me over cobbles past a maze of white-walled temples, the main buildings offset, glimpses of gardens, azale...