Day6 Kokedera and Gion

LOTS of tourists in Arashiyama. Young men haul tourists through the bamboo forest in rickshaw type vehicles.


On the way to the bamboo forest stands the Nonomiya-jinja Shrine, which is old enough to be mentioned in the Tales of Genji. Emperors sent their unmarried daughters here to be trained as a Saigu, a priestess to the Sun Goddess.


The trail passes another temple complex, and since it is a World Cultural Heritage site, I succumbed…

The Tenryu-ji Temple – the Temple of the Heavenly Dragon – is located on the site of the first Zen temple in Japan. This temple was established in the 1300s but burned down 8 times from then until the last fire in 1864. So the buildings are not that old, but the garden, one of the oldest in Japan, retains its form from the fourteenth century.

Tenryu means golden dragon…

An enormous portrait of Bodhidharma, the monk who brought Zen to Japan from India.

And then the bamboo forest….

The trail led down to the river

where I picked up a bus for Kokedera, aka the Saiho-ji Temple and its moss garden.
I had to reserve in advance by sending the temple a self-addressed post card, as they only let those in with reservations. Here’s the card I received back. For I while, to my dismay, I couldn’t find it, but I had left it on the counter at the Woodacre Post Office and found it again in my box!

Despite the reservations, I’d say there were at least 100 people allowed in. We sat on the floor and copied sutras, tracing characters as small as those in the postcard in Sumo ink…it was quite challenging, but my summer studying Japanese at Berkeley helped. About all I remember is the order to write keystrokes, not any of their meaning. 🙁

The ceremony and the chanting moving and hypnotic…and then the garden, created by the same designer who made the Tenryu-ji garden.

In the center is a pond shaped in the Chinese character for heart…

With hundreds of different kinds of moss covering the grounds…

An experience of serenity and beauty well worth the effort.

In the evening I took a tour of the Gion area, known for its Geishas. The riverside is a surprisingly quiet and natural part of Kyoto.

Many old tea houses sit over the river. At one time houses sat on both sides of the river but one side was demolished during WWII to prevent fire spreading during air raids..

The tour guide explained a lot about maikos and geikos, apprentices and geishas. Strict traditional customs rule their lives.

We happened to see a maiko scurrying to work at a tea house.

The geisha culture started when pilgrims to the nearby shrine stopped afterwards for tea and dumplings. The waitresses began to entertain along with serving. Red lanterns, the circles representing dumplings, are lit outside the door when the establishment is open.

A full and beautiful day. Tomorrow a trip to Nara.


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