Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Japan Golden Week - Kyoto 2/2


On our second day in Kyoto, we first went to Kiyomizu-dera temple.  The temple is located on a hill, so the walk is a bit up slope, and along the way there are shops around, selling spring time delicacies like Mochi pastries.

On our way up, we notice some Japanese lady wearing their traditional Kimono dress.  We learned that it is because during that holiday weekends, some shops gives special discounts to those buyers who are wearing their traditional dresses.

Located halfway up Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto City, Kiyomizu-dera is a historic temple that was established in 778, even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan.

The main entrance to the temple compound.


Before entering the main hall, there is an elevated terrain, where we saw some interesting Shinto sculptures:

Okuninushino-Mikoto - a Japanese Mythology character. 

The adventures of O-Kuni-Nushi begin with the legend of the white Rabbit (hare) of Inaba. This hare appeals to the eighty brothers of O-Kuni-Nushi for help. The hare has been skinned by a group of vicious crocodiles, when he asks O-Kuni-Nushi's brothers for help and they tell him to bathe in the sea and to dry off in the wind. This causes severe pain for the Hare. Later, the hare meets O-Kuni-Nushi, who feels sorry for the animal and tells him to bathe in fresh water and then to roll in the pollen of sedges  lying on the ground. 

After this the Inaba Hare is completely cured. In thanks he proclaims that the Princess Yamato is to go to O-Kuni-Nushi, not to his brothers. His brothers are angry with this and kill O-Kuni-Nushi, which they succeeded in doing, but his mother and the goddess Kami-Musubi manages to  resurrect him. In this case, the myth of the hare and O-Kuni-Nushi shows the valuable lesson of kindness.  
Another interesting object here is this mysterious stone, 

The Main Hall (Hondo) of the temple is designated as a national treasure. The temple has many other important cultural properties including the Deva gate, west gate, three-storied pagoda and bell tower. 

Inside the temple, there is a section where it has displays of ancient Shinto weapons :

In 1994, it was registered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

The two most famous places of the temple are the Main Hall, where the Eleven Headed and Thousand Armed Kannon Bodhisattva - which is famous for the power of answering prayers - is enshrined and Kiyomizu Stage, which is the veranda of the Main Hall extended over a precipice.

The popular Japanese expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge". This refers to an Edo period tradition that was held then, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. Surely they wish to survive!

Kiyomizu Stage was built using a special method; huge 12-meter high keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) pillars were assembled without using a single nail and the floor was installed using more than 410 cypress boards. The View of the city center of Kyoto from the Stage is magnificent, with Kyoto tower protruding:


Kiyomizu-dera (the temple of clear water) was named after Otowa Waterfall.  Water from a spring in the mountain has been falling there since its foundation.  Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. 

Otowa Waterfall, where visitors can drink the sacred Otowa Water from a ladle, which is believed to have wish-granting powers.

Beside the spring water source, there were some Shinto priests soliciting for donation :

Exiting the temple compound, to go back to our meeting place, the road is quite tricky, there is a junction splitting to 2 roads, 

Make sure to remember which road you took going up, so you will not get lost like me!

It was really a bonus, that on the day we were in Kyoto, there is an ongoing Yabusame .  This was not originally in our plan, but majority of us wants to see it, so Mochan gladly granted our request! 

So that afternoon, we went to Shimogamo Shrine, that week was the feast of Aoi Matsuri (second festival within the Japan Golden Week).

Yabusame (流鏑馬?) is a type of traditional Japanese archery.  An archer on a running horse shoots three special "turnip-headed" arrows successively at three wooden targets, the target is the square piece of plywood (carried by the kid below),

This style of archery has its origins at the beginning of the Kamakura period.  Minamoto no Yoritomo became alarmed at the lack of archery skills his samurai had. He organized yabusame as a form of practice.  

In the late afternoon, we drove to  Arashiyama,

Arashiyama (嵐山 Storm Mountain) is a district on the western outskirts of Kyoto, Japan. 

It also refers to the mountain across the Ōi River, which forms a backdrop to the district.  Arashiyama is a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. 

It was indeed a beautiful place, we heard that during Autumn these foliages are even more beautiful because it turns reddish.

Across the bridge are several souvenir shops,

Some shops are selling very unique products, like this vegetable flavored candies:

There is also a metro station nearby, 

   One of the famous site here in Sagano, the Bamboo Forest!

If you’ve been planning a trip to Kyoto, you’ve probably seen pictures of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – along with the Tori tunnels of Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple (yesterday's visit), it’s one of the most photographed sights in the city.

The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves, is good for a nice walk or bicycle ride.  The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth.

But no picture can capture the feeling of standing in the midst of this sprawling bamboo grove – the whole thing has a sense of otherness that is quite unlike that of any normal forest we know of.
Have you ever seen a bamboo shoot growing from the ground?  the color of the shoot is purplish.

Leaving Kyoto during sunset,

We arrive Osaka at almost 8pm.  I was surprise to see Osaka to be so modern, with signature brands around Namba shopping district.

We had dinner, and an hour to roam around - but this is just a primer, wait till the next days trip for a full coverage of Osaka city.

That night we slept at Osaka suburbs with our gracious 3rd host - Ohodo family.

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