Mix the an­cient and mod­ern in Ja­pan’s spir­i­tual heart – Ky­oto

Daily Star Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Edited by VICKY LIS­SAMAN

mag­i­cal. A tea cer­e­mony is also in­cluded in the price, plus you get to take home a piece of Ja­panese style. A rather lovely small plate is used to serve a sweet which ac­com­pa­nies your matcha green tea and you can keep it as a sou­venir.

Ac­cord­ing to book­ing.com, 70% of trav­ellers choose their des­ti­na­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion with de­sign in mind. More than half say for­eign travel in­spires the way they dec­o­rate their homes – to re­mind them of those happy hol­i­days and Ky­oto is cer­tainly a place to in­spire a zen makeover.

We stayed at the cosy Ho­tel Gran Ms Ky­oto, which is handy for lo­cal bars and restau­rants like gy­oza em­po­rium, Anzukko.

For a real treat we booked the fancy French/Ja­panese restau­rant, Kyo Gas­tron­omy Kozo, where you can watch chef Kozo Noda whip up mod­ernist taste sen­sa­tions. With a sake pair­ing to go with the many cour­ses, we left smil­ing. From Ky­oto we trav­elled to Nara, a small city which was once the cap­i­tal of Ja­pan, and home to To­dai-ji tem­ple, the largest wooden building in the world, hous­ing a huge bronze Bud­dha statue.

It was teem­ing with tourists and school par­ties who were either try­ing to feed or avoid the deer. It al­most feels like these crea­tures own the city and they are used to the huge crowds. You can even buy spe­cial crack­ers that are safe for them to eat. Our ho­tel was the cen­trally-lo­cated Onyado Nono Nara Nat­u­ral Hot Spring, with its own on­sen.

As well as the tra­di­tional sites, it’s also worth a spir­i­tu­ally uplift­ing stop at the Harushika Sake brew­ery.

An­other nearby site not to miss is Koy­asan, the most sa­cred place for the Shin­gon Bud­dhism sect in­tro­duced to Ja­pan by the monk Kobo Daishi in 805. There’s a limit to the num­ber of peo­ple AMSTERDAM: Two nights’ room-only at the four-star Apollo Ho­tel Almere City Cen­tre on Koet­sier­baan is £192. Leave from Lu­ton on June 21. Book it at love­hol­i­days.com.

ITALY CAMP­ING: En­joy a week at the four-star Camp­ing Europa Sil­vella in San Felice Del who can stay, with most ac­com­mo­da­tion be­ing in the tem­ples them­selves, where you can join morn­ing rit­u­als and med­i­ta­tion.

If it all sounds a bit hippy, don’t worry, the monks have a sense of hu­mour and en­joy in­ter­act­ing with vis­i­tors.

Our guide on the night ceme­tery walk, Nobu, was par­tic­u­larly good and ob­vi­ously picked up a bit of north­ern hu­mour as we dis­cov­ered he stud­ied in Manch­ester be­fore be­com­ing a monk.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to leave with­out some great pho­tos but not of the most sa­cred place in town – the mau­soleum of Kobo Daishi. His fol­low­ers be­lieve that he is still alive and still med­i­tat­ing.

You can see the sur­round­ing build­ings but must not take pho­tos and you cer­tainly can­not en­ter the mau­soleum it­self. Only the head monk can go in, tak­ing Kobo his break­fast and lunch each day. SUS­SEX: THAI­LAND:

■ EASTERN PROM­ISE: Ky­oto and, right, the Bud­dha at To­dai-ji TURN­ING JA­PANESE: Matt in trad gear

Be­naco on Lake Garda for £255. Price based on a fam­ily of six shar­ing a two-bed­room Puc­cini Riviera mo­bile home. Ar­rive on June 24. More at al­fresco-hol­i­days. com or call 0161 332 8900.

En­joy a four-night self-cater­ing break at Combe Haven Hol­i­day Park in Hast­ings for

£162.50. Sleeps six. Ar­rive on June

25. More info or book at haven.com. Get a free up­grade with a seven-night hol­i­day with break­fast at Ap­sara Beach­front Re­sort & Vil­las in Khao Lak from £739. From Gatwick be­tween Sept 15 to Oct 20. Book by Thurs­day at emi­rateshol­i­days.com.

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