If you ever had to arrive in Osaka at night, you will immediately know what the weather will be like the following day. A giant Ferris wheel that lights up in either one of three colors indicates the forecast. We were fortunate enough to have the gigantic wheel spinning in a shade of red for our duration of stay. (Red- sunny, green- overcast, blue- raining)
I am extremely fortunate that I had the opportunity to visit the city of Kyoto, an hour or so from Osaka. During WW2 Osaka was heavily bombed and many, if not most, of the ancient temples and shrines were destroyed. But Kyoto was spared. All the temples and places of religious significance are as they were, some dating back to as far as the year 711.
Like I have mentioned in the previous blog about Nagasaki, there is a certain inexplicable sense of peace here. It might be because I am visiting temples, but even the walk through the city is not as fast paced, as one would imagine it to be in Japan. I have not been to Tokyo yet, but imagine things to be different there perhaps. For now, I am enjoying the calm late spring day as I make my way to my first temple – The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
This temple is enshrined at the western foot of Mount Inari, at the southern tip of Kyoto’s Higashiyama Sanju mountain range. This is the head shrine of the 30,000 shrines nationwide. It is beautifully preserved and the color of vermilion is striking. Because the color expresses the power of Inari Okami (god of harvest) most of the shrines are painted in this vivid shade of orange.
I make my way to the Senbon Torii. It is a walkway with 1000 shrine gates all painted in bright vermilion.
There are about 10,000 shrines on the grounds and they have been offered by worshippers from all over Japan as a testament of their prayers and gratitude. Toriis are infused with the meaning of wishes will come through.
The first sushi I had in Nagasaki was amazing because the restaurant had a very intimate feel to it. The Sushi restaurant I went to today however must be one of the most beautiful on the planet. While eating the exotic and extremely well presented delicacy, I look out onto an amazing Japanese garden. There are bonsai trees growing out of age-old rocks and the Koi in the pond fascinates me into a state of complete Zen.
Pond at the restaurant
I don’t know why it bothers me so much that certain Western people are so reluctant to emerge themselves into other cultures. Here we are, sitting in this amazing and truly beautiful restaurant and the woman opposite me does not even want to try the smallest bit of Sushi because she is afraid of parasites. Yes, I understand it is not everyone’s favorite dish, but at least have the decency to not ask for a chicken burger!
Beautiful pagoda in the Sushi restaurant garden
Sushi Restaurant garden
Koi pond and waterfall at Sushi restaurant garden
After lunch I stumble upon a temple that took my breath away. I walk past what appears to me like a Japanese monk and with the aromas of incense that is filling the air along with the chants in the distance, I feel like I am stepping back a few centuries.
The Kiyomizu temple is a Buddhist temple. Many Japanese people are Buddhists and it is no surprise that it is busy here. There are lots of different people here and I see many girls dressed in Geisha attire. They are so incredibly beautiful. What strike me most is the purification ritual people do. Water flowing from a dragon’s mouth is collected in a cup. You wash your hands with it and take a sip, rinse the mouth, and spit out the water. I do the same.
One of the Kiyomizu Shrines. I was in awe of this scene for well over an hour, lost in my mind
Japanese monk at Kiyomizu temple
There is so much to take in at this temple and I wish I had a week to explore all the photo opportunities. I can only imagine what it must look like at sunset, or when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, perhaps it will look most amazing when it is snowing. But what I see today is beautiful and I am grateful for this beautiful day.
Main Shrine at Kiyomizu
The final temple for the day is something completely different, and it has something I have always wanted to see. A Zen garden.
No shoes mean you get a real feel of the wooden floors and how old they really are. The entrance to the Ryoanji Temple is spectacular and it leads me to the rectangular Zen garden. It is a simple but remarkable stone garden. It is completely different in the way that there is no tree to be seen in the garden, only fifteen rocks and white gravel is used. The garden was created by a respected Zen monk, Tokuho Zenketsu, and dates back to the Muromachi period (around the year 1500).
The wall of the garden is made from clay boiled in oil and over time a peculiar design formed from the seeping oil.
A good place for contemplation
As I exit the temples beautiful wooden doors, a lady offers me a cup of seaweed tea. It tastes so good and I can’t get enough of it and ask for more, and when she politely says no, I realize just like I have a limited time here, I need to be truly satisfied with what I already have.
The beautiful wooden doors and roofs