Once a month at around 8 o'clock in the morning a resonating hum can be heard throughout the neighbourhood. The sound continues for around half an hour as a dozen Buddhist monks from a nearby temple collect alms.
The deep-toned "hoooooh" chanting would be mesmerising if it were not for a periodic whoop, which somehow always manages to permeate our paper windows and our slumber, as a spiritually sanctioned alarm clock. Their monthly visit is one of the many distinctive sounds of Kyoto and for the non-native residents of the neighbourhood it is a pleasant reminder of the reasons we came to live here.
The monks' heads are usually bowed as they chant up and down the alleyways. The sound carries along the Shirakawa river and into the ears of the devout Buddhists of the neighbourhood. Historically, the monks also begged for food and if none was received they were often forced to eat roadside weeds, or so the locals would have us believe. These days they expect to receive cash. Sometimes a monk can be seen a little further afield standing on Sanjo bridge, silently begging.
Their robes change according to season (heavier in winter and lighter in summer) but the footwear stays the same . Even on a bitterly cold winter morning the monks complete their tour of the neighbourhood in sandals woven from straw. They always either wear or carry large straw hats to protect against sunshine, snow and rain.
Moments after the above photo was taken the monks stopped for a well earned rest near a vending machine and consumed cans of one of the world's most popular soft drinks.