Back in Kyoto. I think a home is a place that you return to and thus the more you leave and then return to the city, the more the city feels like home. It does not matter so much how long you stay in the city. For me, that is how Kyoto felt for me. In less than 3 weeks, I returned to Kyoto 5 times. The day after I got back from Tottori to Kyoto (3 h bus ride), I decided that it was about time to visit the famous Kiyomizu-dera. I always have complex feelings towards the most famous sites in a city. I look forward to seeing these places because definitely they are highly rated for a good reason. On the other hand, I don’t really want to see them because I am afraid they will disappoint. I must say even though the whole temple is over-crowded with visitors, Kiyomizu-dera does not disappoint in any way. To get to Kiyomizu-dera, one has to walk a rather steep path (~ 300 m) that is littered with souvenir shops. Kiyomizu-dera, founded in 780, is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. As you might have expected, it is also an UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple is most famous for the wooden stage that juts out of its main hall. The wooden stage and the wooden scaffolds put in place to support the weight of the stage are really quite impressive. It is quite amazing how a temple supported on wooden scaffolds (without any nails!) survive the many, many earthquakes that hit Japan. In the Edo period, there is a belief that if one were to survive the 13 m jump from the stage, his/ her wish would be granted. Such practices, of course, are prohibited today. I took this picture of the wooden stage of Kiyomizu-dera from the Koyasu Pagoda (which apparently blesses visitors with easy and safe childbirth), it is so gorgeous!
Beside the famous wooden stage, Kiyomizu-dera is rather famous these days for Jishu Shrine – a shrine dedicated to love and matchmaking. There are two stones, 18 m apart from one another, placed in front of the shrine and apparently, if one can find your way from one stone to another with your eyes closed, love will find you soon. The beliefs and traditions at Japanese temples are quite varied and people can really have “fun” in the temples. Jishu Shrine is so famous that when I was there, the whole place was crowded with students and tourists and it was impossible to walk with your eyes closed even for 2 m before bumping into a fellow tourist.
After visiting Kiyomizu-dera, Chizuru and I went to Kobe. I shall save that adventure for a separate post. On another day, I visited Sanjusangendo (also in eastern Kyoto). Sanjusangendo is the longest wooden structure in Japan at a length of 120 m and it derived its name from the 33 pillars in the halls. This hall in the temple is famous for holding 1001 statues of Kannon (or Guan Yin), the Goddess of Mercy, partitioned nicely by the 33 pillars. 1000 small statues stand at 1.67 m tall and they are all carved out of wood and plated with gold. Each statue has a slightly different expression and it was quite an amazing sight! In the middle of the long hall is the principal image of the temple – 3.3 m tall, seated “1000-handed Kannon” with eyes made from crystals. In January, there is an annual archery competition held at this temple in which archers fire arrows at targets 60 m away. This tradition started during the Edo period and at that time, competition lasted for 24 hours and the winner of the contest is the one who hits the most targets in 24 hours. The record is 8132 shots. Apparently, good archers can even hit targets when they are placed 120 m away.
After visiting Sanjusangendo, I took a walk around that area and found myself on the preserved historic streets of Kyoto near Kodaiji. There were men who brought people around on rickshaws and shops that sold Japanese snacks. I am quite a fan of this area as compared to the tourist street near Kiyomizu-dera. It is a lot quieter and you feel transported back into time.
Junyu (from Singapore), Chizuru and I dolled up as Maikos at a photoshoot in the afternoon. It was quite fun, we took a lot of photos and even the tourists who were strolling past the shops stopped by and took photos with us! We ended the day with a dinner in a cafe on Shijo Avenue and I visited Nishiki Tenmangu at the Teramachi shopping street. Temples are ubiquitous in Kyoto, you can find a temple in a middle of a shopping alley! Nishiki Tenmangu is quite well-known for the lanterns at the entrance of the shrine, it is another kind of beauty. 🙂