Today Tiffany and I went to Kyoto (京都). It was lovely, the weather was perfect for walking (except for a strangely short-lived burst of rain), and we had a nice relaxing day of temples, shrines, and gardens. (I wish I could post my own pictures, but they're not developed yet, so I'm just going to illustrate with shots shamelessly stolen from various tourism websites.)
The first temple we visited was one of my favorite temples in Japan: Sanjuusan-gendou (三十三間堂) or the hall of the thirty-three bays (pictured above). Dad may remember this as it was one of the temples we visited together. It's famous for the 1,001 statues of Kannon (観音) the Bodhisattva of Compassion (also known as Kuan-Yin the Chinese Goddess of Mercy). As you can see the hall seems to stretch on forever and each statue is slightly different. They say that there are so many different faces that anyone can find a Kannon that looks like them!
The next place we visited was Kiyomizu Temple (清水寺), which is one of the most famous temples in Japan, particularly because in the olden days it was popular (?) for people to commit suicide by jumping off the overhanging veranda. We took a pass on the whole leaping off into space thing, but we did explore a weird cave under the temple. I'd actually done it before, but still it was one of the most freaky and unnerving sensations I've ever felt. Basically you pay ¥100 to go under the ground and wander around in the pitch black, navigating only by the touch of the safety rail under your hand. It is the kind of thing that really has to be experianced first hand, because there are no words to describe that kind of darkness. (All I can say is that after feeling that darkness I can understand a little why people in sensory deprivation tanks go wacko.) It was chilling, but kind of exhilirating in a way too. (And truth be told probably would've been a lot more chilling if it hadn't been for the screaming group of school kids who went in just ahead of us...).
Then we went to Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) which is in my opinion way
better than Kinkakuji (金閣寺). Kinkakuji is beautiful in a very gaudy, theatrical kind of way with all the gold-leaf and what-not, but Ginkakuji is much more subdued and has its own quieter beauty. Also the grounds at Ginkakuji are filled with beautiful sand sculptures, waterfalls and ponds, and carpeted with lush moss, and are some of the most beautiful I've seen at any temple. (In fact they have a rather humourous display of the various (!) kinds of moss, including "Very Important Moss: Like VIP", and "Moss The Interrupter".) We also saw for some reason a small crab! I don't know if it's usual to find crabs in rivers in Japan, but this little guy was in a tiny trickle of a stream way up in the hills at Ginkakuji, and since I've always thought of crabs as ocean-dwellers it struck me as a little odd.
The last place we visited was Eikandou (永観堂), one of Kyoto's prime maple-viewing spots. We went after dark and they had the whole place lit up so it was quite nice to see the red and green of the leaves against the night sky. We also saw the famous Mikaeri Amida Nyorai (見返り阿弥陀如来) or 'Amitabha Looking Back'. Apparently one day a priest was pacing and praying in the temple when the statue came to life, stepped down off the pedastal and started walking along with him. The priest stopped dead in his tracks at seeing Amitabha , who then turned to look over his shoulder at the priest and tell him to keep walking. Apparently ever since then, the statue has remained in the pose of looking over its shoulder rather than the standard forward-facing pose seen in most representations of Amida Nyorai. So there's some history for ya!
We also did a ton of shopping and Tiffany and I bought the cutest little matching cat dolls from this tiny shop near the Path of Philosophy (哲学の道). Tiff got white and I got gray!
That's all for today, over and out, Goog Niter!