Monday, December 14, 2009

Chion-in: Little Discoveries

On the last full day in Japan, despite feeling tired, I traveled back over to Kyoto to see a temple site. I chose to go to the Chion-in Temple site area since it wasn't too far from the Kyoto station where I would start off at and it offered both an historical sight plus some shopping.

This picture was taken on the bus as I rode around making my way to the area. I enjoyed the bus rides a lot in Kyoto, making observations of how some things looked familiar and others not. Also it was fun to experience being driven around on the opposite side of the road.

I got off near Gion street and walked across to where there was the entrance. I was making my way towards the San-mon gate which was really big.

On the way I spotted some interesting textures inside a water pot.

There was a construction site which had a large wall around it, similar to what you see out here. I liked the iris decoration...
Then I came to the gate and noticed how enormous it was.

A lamp~
A sign at the entrance, which seemed to captivate this older gentleman. I can only imagine he was reading it and taking in the information. I merely liked the juxtaposition of him and the sign.

Going up the stairs of the temple was a bit of a task for my weary body. But I figured it was part of the whole giving up lifestyle and embracing suffering that Buddhism often talks about.

From above the steps you can see a good view of Kyoto. Looking around the gate I noticed there were some decorations. I think this is likely to be a lamp which is lit up at night.

A view through the walkway~

It was very bright this day, in fact the next day it was rainy and gray outside. I was fortunate, I feel, to get such great weather on my time there.

After passing through the gate I had several options. There was a small garden I could have paid an entrance fee and walked around in or you can make your way up the steps to the main attraction. I knew Japanese gardens are spectacular but also took in account that my body was only up for so much that day. So I made my up the many steps to the main hall of the area.

On the way I spotted this structure so quaint and quietly sitting in a garden.
It was bordered off so I couldn't get closer...that's ok.
Getting closer to the top~

In sight was the Meido Hall with it's large swooping roof.

Since this building houses the miei (sacred image) of the founder, Hōnen, this building is called the Mieidō (hall that houses the image of Hōnen). This hall serves as the center of the Chion-in temple complex.
There was a faint scent of incense in the air and I could hear the chiming of a gong along with the deep sound of a monk chanting. I knew I wanted to get in and take a closer look but first I was a little hungry. On the opposite side of the temple hall was a gift and snack shop. I stepped inside and ate a few rice balls I bought earlier just for this kind of situation.

After eating I was ready to visit inside the Buddhist hall.

Before going in I looked around the area in front. There was a prayer incense holder area.

Before entering the temple it was mandatory to take off one's shoes. They had bags for you so that you could carry your shoes with you. I suppose this is safer than leaving them in front of the temple, which I think was the traditional way of doing things. Also this temple sees a lot of local visitors for yearly rituals.
I cooperated and took off my shoes and carried them in a complimentary plastic bag. Here is a view looking from the temple steps.

I was not allowed to take any pictures inside and respected their wishes. Instead I took mental pictures by sitting out of the way and watching the rituals going on.

The foremost religious practice in the Pure Land Schools of Buddhism. Nembutsu literally means ‘Mindfulness of the Buddha’. It was thus originally a meditative practice with the Buddha and his innumerable merits ‘kept in mind’, i.e. as an object of contemplation.
Maybe you know what there is to know about Buddhism but I want to make sure my readers understand that it is a religion that has many different sects. Also understand that as it left India and traveled on the Silk Road to many regions across Asia that it blended with local traditions as well.

In America I encountered Buddhism through learning about it in my Asian Art History classes, but also through entertainment. I feel now that the Buddhism I have seen abroad and the kind I have seen back home in America are entirely separate from each other. It is advertised as this non-chalant, easy going, "zen" thing that offers you piece of mind.  Yes some practices strive for this but all in all most Buddhist monks live very routine and structured lives.

While sitting in the hall I couldn't help but feel how ritualistic and ancient this religion is. When the monk chanted the sutras and struck the gong in a timely fashion I took in what I could from this ambiance. It made me want to dive deeper into the religion and truly understand it more. Also I wished that I had the language to know what was going on.

After going through all these thoughts and emotions I felt less tense from my travels. Finally I felt satisfied and made my out of the temple to look around the rest of the area.

On my way out I saw these patterns in the shadows.

The corridors which connect the Mieidō (hall which houses the image of Hōnen) to the Shūedō (Assembly Hall), Ōhōjō (Large Guest House) and Kohōjō (Small Guest House) total 550 meters in length. When you walk through these corridors, they make a sound similar to that of a nightingale. The less noise you try to make, the more the floorboards creak, so the floorboards served the function of a burglar alarm.

Making my way around the main hall I saw this fountain dripping water.


Up these flights of stairs are the Haido and Gobyo, more sacred sights and national treasures. I think that not many visitors go beyond this point since the task of getting there is to climb many stairs. You can see one visitor going up. Before she left I noticed that she took in the sight of so many stairs to climb and made a praying gesture and went up.
This is also the point where I took that video in my montage I made a few days ago.

I turned around and went back to look at the other features of this area.

Rooftop view of the Kyozo or sutra repository.

Nearby were some other structures encapsulated by the fall colors.

A stone bridge~
Path from the bridge that leads to a shrine.

It seemed like it was spring and fall at the same time.

Water purification area~

Unfortunately I don't know what this structure is all about.

These were the benches out front near the snack/gift shop. I liked the contrast of the Japanese letters against the blue. I think it is has been noted how Japanese characters are within themselves a great design, and perhaps this is why they are so catching to the eye.

This is where I am going to have to leave you. I finished off this trip by buying a few things inside the gift shop. Later I meandered into Gion and had a fabulous lunch along with more gift shopping. I will write on that at a different time. For now, I hope this post shows you the fun I had in Kyoto and how you can find small wonders in this world.

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