Look up, lis­ten and learn

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SUSAN KURO­SAWA

Look up. Sim­ple ad­vice, it’s true, but when trav­el­ling how many of us re­mem­ber to really take in our sur­round­ings.

In­creas­ingly, peo­ple look down – at what­ever elec­tronic gizmo has their rapt at­ten­tion. “Put away your de­vices and mind the gap!” comes the an­nounce­ment on my train last week­end as it pulls into Hornsby sta­tion. Oh, dear.

Last month in the big-smoke cap­i­tal of Ja­pan, I sat on the open top deck of the merry red Tokyo Sky­Bus as we trun­dled about on an icy day. The com­men­tary, in English via ear­phones, was slen­der but funny, mostly to do with gar­dens where young Tokyo-ites ap­par­ently go on dates at night. “Hold on!” our recorded voice warned as we hit the ex­press­way. “This will be haz­ardous! Don’t wave your arms! Don’t stand up!” she trilled. Suit­ably dis­cour­aged, I looked up, though, and there it was, Tokyo Tower, now eclipsed by the fab­u­lously sci-fi Tokyo Skytree, al­most twice the height. But Tokyo Tower is still em­blem­atic of the city and was one of my nav­i­ga­tional land­marks when I lived there years ago. I had never seen it from this look-up­the-skirts an­gle, though. Click, click. “Here we go again! Hold on!” chirped the com­men­ta­tor. Yes, dear.

Later that week in Nara, look­ing up also proved a treat. The sky was a beam­ing blue and the roof-lines of To­dai-ji, an eighth-cen­tury tem­ple, ap­peared poised to soar clean away. In­side To­dai-ji is the world’s largest bronze statue of Bud­dha; the im­age’s ears are each 2.54m long. And later that day, in Arashiyama, on the western fringe of Ky­oto, look­ing up brought wooded hills, their hard old trees in full au­tumn fin­ery, all gold, rus­set, claret and cop­per.

To­dai-ji sits adjacent to the Nara Deer Park, where about 1000 of th­ese no­ble crea­tures roam freely and are pro­tected by their sa­cred sta­tus in the Shinto re­li­gion as mes­sen­gers of the gods. Their be­hav­iour is not all that godly, though, as they head-butt tourists for food or just to play or an­noy. Look­ing the deer straight in the eye is un­set­tling. Visi­tors buy os­em­bei rice-cakes to feed them and woe be­tide you if a hun­gry one ac­costs you and you are clean out of crack­ers. “They walk about as if they own the place,” says the bluff Bri­tish bloke be­side me in the queue for matcha ice cream. I lick my de­li­cious green tea cone and say not a word. Oh, deer.

Fol­low on In­sta­gram: su­sankuro­sawa

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