As I write, I am in the beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan. Yesterday we and thousands of others tourists visited the popular site of Kiyomizu-Dera, where an beautiful ancient temple sits on a lofty hill overlooking Kyoto. As we departed the crowded site, we noticed a quiet little detour from the exit path leading to some iron gates. Curious, we continued and entered into what I felt was the most spectacular view of all in this area: the Kiyomizu-Dera Graveyard, where thousands upon thousands of cremation remains are marked with tombstones that stand like little skyscrapers over a vast city of the dead. To me, it looked like a miniature scale version of Shanghai with its endless towers.
What a beautiful scene and moving place to ponder the lives of those who have gone before us. What an inspiring place to contemplate life and history, especially the rich and often painful history of Japan. How strange that we were the only ones there! Busload after busload of people were coming and going, passing within a few dozen meters from this place, seemingly unaware that it was here. After a few moments, an elderly English couple came by who apparently had seen us wander through the gates and came to see what we had found. Good for them!
I have often felt that the most interesting and valuable portions of our explorations in many popular venues were the little detours that took us to places the masses overlooked. The “road less traveled” is filled with treasures. I feel the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that way. Overlooked or shunned by many, hardly a popular destination, but waiting there in quiet paths for seekers looking for beauty and inspiration. The perspective of the Gospel is one that helps us to look upon scenes like Kyoto’s City of the Dead with wonder, respect, and hope, knowing that their stories matter and that those souls yet live, waiting for the joy of the Resurrection when they will be part of the great Heavenly City that awaits us.