Japan Trip - Kyoto Day 3 - Kiyomizu-dera

>> Friday, June 11, 2010

I think I'm a bit messed up on which order we did things in Kyoto--we visited Kiyomizu-dera, this temple, on day one, if I remember correctly now!--but it doesn't really matter.

The walk up to Kiyomizu-dera is lined on one path with chintzy tourist trap souvenir shops (as are the paths to many of the major shrines and temples in Japan.)

On a quieter approach, we found this great pottery shop, where we bought a neat little pottery Buddha like the ones in the bottom right of the window there.

The entrance to the temple is quite impressive. Kiyomizu-dera is an independent Buddhist temple dating back to 798, with the current buildings built in 1633. According to Wikipedia, not one nail is used in the entire complex. The name of the temple (literaly "clear water" or "pure water") comes from the waterfall that tumbles through the complex off the hill in the background.

This was our first experience with Japanese school kids coming up to us with school assignments to talk to us in English and record our answers to preset questions. ("Where are you from?" "How do you like Japan?" "Where have you visited?" "Do you like Japanese food?") As we toured many of Kyoto's more famous sites, this happened again and again to us, and we always tried to be gracious and take time to talk with them. This group might have been the youngest of those who came up to us, and wanted their picture taken with Jo. Giving the peace sign, as the kids are doing here, is perfunctory in Japanese picture posing.

A pine tree getting a lot of support from an elaborate bamboo structure. Set ups like this are very common in gardens throughout Japan, even among home gardeners.

The view from Kiyomizu-dera was much hyped, and halfway up into the complex, we knew we were in for a treat.

A panoramic shot from a bit higher up. Click on the image to see it larger.

Down below, we saw a number of visitors in the traditional traveling garb of pilgrims, perhaps stopping here on a tour of temples. In the old days, these journeys were taken by foot, sometimes over many hundreds of kilometers. These days, most pilgrims travel by motorcoach. The big buses pull up in motorcoach parking lots and dozens of pilgrims pour out, visit the temple, and then they all pile in again and are off to their next pilgrimage site. (The walking sticks the carry are more out of tradition than necessity.)

A pretty spot on the way up to the main temple.

The view from the main temple. You can see the Kyoto Tower sticking up like a stinger there in the middle. The huge verandas here have been a part of the temple for centuries, and give rise to a colloquial expression known all over Japan: "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu," which means something along the lines of the English expression "take the plunge." During the Edo period, tradition held that if you survived the 13 meter jump to the ground below, your dearest wish would be granted. There are two hundred and thirty-four recorded jumps from the Edo period. 85.4% of jumpers survived. Whether their wishes came true--or whether they could still walk after the jump--isn't known. The practice, I'm told, is now not allowed.

A close-up of the Kyoto Tower downtown.

Is it wrong that this picture reminds me of the scenes from the rebel base on Yavin at the end of the original Star Wars movie? Probably.

Japanese temples often sell charms and fortunes. Here Jo shakes a stick out of a canister full of fortune sticks. The number on it will be matched to one of the stacks of fortunes in bins behind the counter, and Jo will have her fortune. Good ones are kept, while bad ones are tied to trees around the temple in an attempt to circumvent fate. Unfortunately, the fortune was in Japanese, so we didn't know if it was good or bad!

Water and sand buckets. Just about every temple, shrine, and castle we went to in Japan has burned to the ground at some point in its long history, and fire is still a threat--particularly in hard to reach locations like this.

Jo contemplates the stairs up to Jishu shrine, a Shinto site on the same grounds as Kiyomizu-dera. (Combination Buddhist/Shinto sites are also very common in Japan, leading to a great deal of confusion for us about what was being worshipped where.) Jishu shrine is dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a god of love and "good matches." There were a lot of young women up there dropping coins in offering boxes...

Jo peruses the love charms for sale.

The god of love himself, along with his messenger, a rabbit.

Jo had a go at lifting the love god's...hammer? Barrel? Drum? We were never quite sure.

Girls pumping coins into the love shrine's coffers.

The love shrine also has two "love stones," placed 18 meters apart. Single visitors try to walk between the stones with their eyes closed. If they make it from one to the other alone without opening their eyes, they will find true love in life. If they make it but get help from a friend, they'll find true love in life, but only with the help of an intermediary.

Jo had a go at this as well--and made it all by herself! True love awaits...

Another way to get the love of your life--as long as you know who they are and just need them to understand you're the love of their life--is to buy one of these person-shaped pieces of paper, write the object of your affection's name on it, and then sink it in this bucket of water.

The paper dissolves into a pulpy base, but the black ink from the names floats on the surface. Very cool.

Another little temple tucked away on the grounds.

The terrace, seen from the other side.

Dad and Jo, with Kiyomizu-dera and Kyoto in the background.

We saw a number of Japanese women dressed up to visit the temple in beautiful kimono.

This group consented to have a picture made with Jo.

And our visit ended with a sno-cone. For Jo at least, there's no better end to a trip out...


tanita davis June 11, 2010 at 4:05 PM  

That picture of Jo with the kids is priceless. So cute!

The God of Love's messenger is a rabbit! I can see that, totally. He beats Cupid by a mile.

Mel Skinner June 13, 2010 at 7:48 PM  

Love the post. The bucket with rising names. So awesome.

I'm glad she made it between the rocks.

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