Friday, October 31, 2008

Path of Philosophy in Kyoto

The "Philosopher's Path" is famous for the cherry blossom's that form a tunnel over the canal in the spring. The path is also a place for students at Kyoto University to come for "hanami" (cherry blossom parties) and welcoming parties for new students. The path got its name from the famous philosophy professor, Kitaro Nishida, who used to stroll along this peaceful stretch of road deeply engrossed in meditation.

Peko-chan break

Peko-chan is one of Japan's oldest mascots. Taking a break after visiting Kiyomizu-dera. The cafe is on the old road (Gojouzaka) leading up to Kiyomizu-dera.

To learn more about this mascot, visit the link below.
Peko-chan link

Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto)

Kiyomizu-dera is a Tendai Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. Its full name is Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site. Not one nail is used in the whole temple.

The temple dates back to 798 and its present buildings were constructed in 1633. The temple takes its name from the waterfall inside the complex, which runs off the hills nearby. Kiyomizu translates into “clear water.”

The main hall has a veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. The expression “to jump off the stage in Kiyomizu” is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression “to take the plunge.” This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that if one were to survive a 13 meter jump from the stage, your wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and of that, 85% survived. Obviously that practice is now prohibited.

Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water drop into a pond. Visitors to the temple collect the water, which is believed to have therapeutic properties, from the waterfall. It is said that drinking the water offers wisdom, health and longevity.

Entrance gate of Kiyomizu-dera

City view from entrance

Entrance gate of Kiyomizu-dera

View from the veranda

View from the veranda

The main building and its veranda. The building is a national treasure.

A view of the main building from below. If you jumped off the veranda, this is where a person was most likely to wind up.

Otawa waterfall where visitors drink of the sacred water. Despite the fact that hundreds of visitors share the drinking utensils, there is a sterilization process where the visitors can have their drinking cup cleaned before each use quickly and conveniently.

Main entrance to temple

To learn more about this historic temple.
Kiyomizu-dera link

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chishaku-in Temple (Kyoto)

Chishaku-in was founded in the 14th century as a sub-temple of Daidenpo-in that was established in Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture by Priest Kakuban (1095-1144), in the year 1130. The mother temple then moved to Negorosan in Wakayama Prefecture ten years later.

In the year 1585, Daidenpo-in, including its sub-temples was totally destroyed by the actual ruler of the country Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1593). Chief Priest of Chishaku-in, Genyu (Gen-yu, 1529-1605), who fled from the assault, had to wait until the Toyotomi family was destroyed and the Tokugawa family came to power. In the year 1601, the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu (1543-1616) gave a place to Genyu to revive Chishaku-in. In the year 1615, Ieyasu gave them neighboring Shounzen-ji Temple that had been founded by Hideyoshi in memory of his son Sutemaru who died in 1591 at the age of three.

The Shoheki-ga (or Fusuma-e) paintings are national treasures. Chishaku-in suffered several fires in its history and half the paintings were lost.

Bridge and Pond

The middle of the garden that is modeled on Mt. Lushan (in Japanese, Rozan) of China.

Temple Hondo (Main hall of worship)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sanjusan-Gen-Do (Kyoto)

The only hall in Japan where one thousand Kannons (gods of mercy) are enshrined.

Officially named the Rengeo-in (Hall of the Lotus King), was built by Kiyomori Taira (the political leader of the Samurai Warriors) in 1164 (2nd Chokan era) as an annex to the Houjouji Palace where the agency governed by the cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa was located. The hall was destroyed by fire 85 years later and was reconstructed in 1266 (3rd Bunei era). Since its 1266 reconstruction, it has undergone four major reconstructions over approximately 750 years. These were carried out in the Muromachi, Momoyama, Edo and Showa periods. The distinctive hall is 118 meters in length. The roof was built in the two Japanese architectural styles called Irimoya (hip-and-gable roof) and Honkawarabuki (fired clay tiled roof covering) while the timber hall itself is built with cypress. The halls common name is San-ju-san-Gen-Do which means thirty three bays (the length between two architectural pillars). One thousand armed Kannon (a national treasure) sits in the center surrounded by 1001 bodies of the thousand-armed Kannon (important cultural properties), as well as 30 national treasures consisting of the Wind god, Thunder god and 28 guardian deities. The southern section of the precinct has Tsuijibei formal style fence which is commonly known as the Taiko (Hideyoshi) plastered wall. The fence, along with the large southern gate are both considered important cultural treasures, and were built in the Momoyama Period when Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Ministerial Samurai Warrior) exerted a great influence on the architects of the day. The temple is host of an annual archery competition held on the temple grounds in the rear of the main building. No photography is permitted inside.

Main hall with fortunes tied to the stand.

Main gate

Temple pond

Small wash basin typically found directly outside temples and shrines for purification. For purification, the cup is dipped into the basin and water poured over the hands. The red clothing on the statues is a temple offering for unborn life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cafe near Nishiki-ichiba (Kyoto)

A delightful cafe in Kyoto. The owner has traveled the world and is a photographer as well. He showed pictures that were taken in Turkey and he's quite good at photography.

McDonalds & KFC in Kyoto

Kyoto is a modern city and if you want to indulge in decadent western "cuisine", there are McDonald's and KFC. Impeccably clean on the inside and the staff is polite and efficient.

Best Soba Restaurant in Kyoto

Honke Owari-ya Restaurant has been in operation since 1465 and has served the Imperial Family and Monks in Kyoto. To learn more about the restaurant, visit the link below.

Honke Owari-ya

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shijo-Kawaramachi (Kyoto)

Shijo-Kawaramachi is a busy downtown central part of Kyoto, where Shijo and Kawaramachi Streets intersect. Kawaramachi Street runs parallel to the Kamo River on the eastern side of Kyoto. Shijo Street runs east-west through the center of the city.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shoden-ji Temple (Kyoto)

Shoden-ji Temple is rather obscure but it has charm. The charm the temple holds comes from incorporating the view of Hiei-zan (Mount Hiei). The technique of borrowing a view to incorporate into the garden is called Shakkei, which means "borrowed scenery." Kobori Enshu designed the garden with Mount Hiei as the focal point. The temple is said to have been founded in 1268 and moved to its present location in 1282. Like Genko-an Temple, the main building's ceiling is made of planks from the tragedy at Fushimijo Castle.

Stone stairs leading up to Shoden-ji Temple

Main Building

Temple Altar

Temple Garden

Mount Hiei view (Shakkei)

Forest adjacent Temple

Temple Daruma

Temple Bell

Genko-an Temple (Kyoto)

Established in 1346 as a place of retirement for the second head priest of Daitoku-ji Temple. The main hall dates from that year. The temple is famous for the two windows expressing the soul of Buddhism, the round "Window of Enlightenment" and the square "Window of Confusion." Dark stains on the ceiling of the corridor along the Main Hall are remains of the tragedy at Fushimijo Castle. During the battle of Sekigahara (circa 1600) a number of more than 380 soldiers were protecting Fushimijo Castle. As they were defending the castle, rather than face surrender the soldiers committed suicide, staining the Castle floors red. Fushimijo was dismantled after the Meiji Resortoration and the materials were distributed among temples and other buildings throughout the region.

Niomon at Genko-an Temple

Temple Bell

Temple Garden

Window of Enlightenment and the Window of Confusion

Temple Altar

Palanquins (Kago) were often used in Japan to transport the warrior class and nobility, most famously during the Tokugawa period when regional samurai were required to spend a part of the year in Edo (Tokyo) with their families, resulting in yearly migrations of the rich and powerful to and from the capital along the central backbone road of Japan.

Ceremonial Drum

Temple Ceiling

Temple Niomon