Day2 Kyoto

The tourist information was in the Kyoto Tower so I went up to the observation deck while I was there in the building. You can see all over Kyoto, including the grounds of Higashi-Honganji temple.

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And a shrine on the observation deck looked odd, but it had all the features, including a rope and bell and little placards you could buy to hang your prayer.


Who’s the little guy being honored in the shrine? Why it’s the tower’s mascot …Towawa-San….(Mr. Tower)…No kidding….the clerk and I had a good laugh when she told me his name…

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I told myself that I wasn’t going to visit many temples and shrines. Kyoto has over 1600…but there are two big ones in my neighborhood, so I thought I’d stay close to home and explore the vicinity.

They are Higashi-Honganji and Nishi-Honganji. They are owned by Buddhist sects of the Pure Land persuasion, where if you have an entrusting heart and awaken to the compassion of the Amida (Buddha) and walk the page of life saying his name (Nembutsu), then when you die, you will be born in the Pure Land and then come back and help others to reach awakening.
There are two sites (east and west) because one of the Shoguns split the monks up because they were too powerful. Divide and conquer…Both sites are huge and constructed of enormous, beautiful cedar beams.

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The Higashi-Honganji (east shrine) was rebuilt in 1895 after a fire, and people contributed their hair to make ropes strong enough to haul the giant cedar logs down from the mountains. An incredible rope of hair encased in glass:

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Passing from one temple site to the other, I walked through what was once a temple city housing artisans who made objects for the temples. Some of the crafts are still being done. This man is working very carefully on a painting.

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Then I came across a shop that makes candles. It was closed, so I could only see those piled near the window. They must be made from plant material because Buddhism doesn’t go for the killing of animals. You can search for “warosoku” on the Japan Times site if you’d like to learn more. I’d like to go back when the shop is open.

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The temples contain some of the largest wooden constructions in the world.

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In the same neighborhood was the “entertainment” region. This gate was used to keep the geisha and other women of pleasure locked in their place.

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The Sumiya, from the Edo period, (1603-1868) was an enormous restaurant and recreation center, the last remaining from that time.

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A beautiful garden brings serenity in the midst of the many rooms…I imagine there was lots of carousing about. Many prominent figures spent time here, including a group of haiku poets, as it was a cultural center along with offering entertainment.
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In front of a shop in the neighborhood stands one of these figures, a Japanese mascot called a tanuki. It brings luck, especially because of its big balls…again you can search the japantimes site for more poop on this critter…

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I braved the subway and went to the Nishiki Market, which goes on for blocks with all kinds of foods.
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Like some kind of shelly things…snails?

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And even enormous chestnuts.
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At the end of the street stands the Nishiki Tenman-gu shrine,,,

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You wash your hands, drop money in the slot, ring the bell, bow twice, clap your hands twice, make your wish, your prayer, then bow again twice.

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This worshipper is reading his slip of paper which he will tie around the cords in hopes of fulfillment.

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A very interesting place and quite different from the Buddhist temples of the morning.

Tomorrow is the big Aoi Matsuri…the oldest festival in Japan. Tickets are sold out for seats but there’s still room roadside.

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