Two Temples and a Man Purse : Kyoto   2 comments

When I step out of the train that exits into Kyoto city, I’m greeted by huge modern posters advertising mostly American Brands. Thousands of people cross crowded streets passing very modern stores. For now, I’m a little confused.

As long as I can rememmbger, Kyoto has been a supposed place of history, mystery and intrigue. I had images in my mind of men dressed in monk’s robes, walking to and fro in their setas (Japanese slippers), calmly going about life down quiet streets filled with telltale Japanese buildings. I imagined Kyoto to be the real Japan, the kind that when I went there I would get washed in a feeling that was similar to the first time I watched anime, or starting reading about Japan on the internet. But so far, it feels very familiar.It has a touch of Tokyo right in the city center, with tall buildings and
large numbers of people. But in the distance, I can see the faintest outline of mountains, which gives me a sense like Oasaka. Then the buildings and layout of the city have an architecture that remind of of certain places in Europe. It feels a little scattered, but I’m still glad to be here.I am not the biggest sightseeing enthusiast at times.

My trip to Kyoto mainly came froma trip to Osaka, and I decided to come here in my down
time. I ask a man where the most famous temple in Kyoto is, and he
gives me some directions in Japanese. “Take the number six bus for
about fifteen minutes and you will be at the temple.”

He says. I nod in agreement, then go outside to look for the terminal.However, it is a holiday, the end of silver week and the streets are crammed with people. At every bus stop there are no less than fifty people standing in line for the buses to arrive, and I don’t see any terminals marked six, or any buses with six on them. After walking in a circle for ten minutes or so, I see a few girls in a coffee house. They all have dark hair and look European. I ask them about Kyoto. One of them, a tall slim girl with an attractive face tells me in a heavy accent they are in town for an eight week exchange program. They say that I need to walk thirty minutes north and I will find the temple. I start
walking.

I pass a bridge and see a river stretching far into the distance. At either side of the river banks, beside large sloping walls designed to channel flood water, are hundreds of people sitting down. They stretch for as far as I can look, and I stand there for a minute or two, just people watching. A few street artists are doing their thing, painting passersby or drawin caricature for a thousand yen. I pass more shops and mostly fast food places, then I reach a temple. There are no markings on the front, save two large Japanese dragon-dogs. It looks pretty big, and people are filing in and out in a constant stream. I go in.

The place immediately shifts from a city to something else. Around me are tall trees with thick leaves. The elements of the temple start to appear. Some bells here and there, an old building and then eventually the main area. I am by an extremely tall Japanese prayer shrine. People walk forward and pull the rope a few times to ring the bell. They clasp their hands and drop a little money into a large silver jar. I watch them do it for a while, taking in the vista of the temple grounds. It
is very spacious and well groomed, but crowded. I like the temple, but seeing people traipsing about with Deisel jeans and Louis Vuitton bags makes things less spectacular.

I walk further inside, and find a park, which hilariously has a statue called “JOOK”, which means “sex” in Jamaican vernacular. I watch a few boisterous young boys chase some people-friendly ravens for a few minutes while I think about life. I walk further into the temple, and find a beautiful pond with small fishes swimming clearly near a short waterfall. A Japanese man and his son stand by the water, feeding the fishes with breadcrumbs and watching the frenzy.

I go further into the temple, and I can clearly see a hill nearby, its green body covered in lush vegetation, with the lengthy bamboo shoots standing out like needles in a fuzzy ball of yarn. A bench provides another spot of solitude, and I drink some water while taking in the nature. After I’m done with that temple, I go back into the city, immediately transported back to reality. I find another temple nearby, a Zen temple guarded my tall men with police uniforms on. This is the Kennin-Ji,
Kyoto’s oldest Zen Buddhist temple. This feels like the “real” Kyoto. After I pay five hundred yen to go inside and remove my shoes, I am in a huge wooden building the likes of which I have never seen. Japanese architecture of this nature really has a therapeutic and balanced touch. Everything is expertly groomed, clean and calm. There are various historical pharaphernalia on display and there are rooms that guests cannot enter or photograph.

 The place feels very old andhistoric. Most of the people walking around are Japanese couples or
families, taking a break on the weekend. I walk into a room the size of a basketball court where people are in various states of relax; they are either sleeping outright, laying on each other, or just sitting quietly. I pass this room and walk across a semi-bridge that connects the buildings. There I see displays of statues showing a range of Japanese style sculpting. In here definitely feels more like a temple to me.’

I put on a pair of red slippers and walk outside through a rope towards another large building. This is the main attraction. The building is the size of a church and empty save three or four large sculptures beside an elegant shrine. As I walk in, I see everyone looking up, and
so do I. Then, I see it.

On the ceiling is a painting, an old, classic Japanese painting depicting dragons and various other mythological symbols. It is the largest painting of its kind I have seen thus far. People stand there and take photographs, and I do the same. Inside there is shadowy and ancient, filled with secrets and mysteries. I stay in there for a few minutes, and then leave. Outside, the air is cool and the leaves rustle in the trees. The property is very calming and there are less people there than the other temple. I make my way back to the large relaxation room, and lay there for a while, with my eyes closed and the occasional gust of breeze tickling my feet. A voice comes over the speaker, and I recognize the tone.

The temple is closing. I get up, slightly more refreshed, and head back to the center of the city. I pass the bridge again, and there are even more people this time by the riverside. It is an interesting site. I head back to the train station and then up some more, just to see what else is around. I end up at Terimachi street, which is the most famous shopping street in Kyoto. Many, many years ago it was a district where goods were bought and sold, when men had horses and carriages, and there wasn’t nicely manicured tile lining the street. The size was daunting, with three streets stretching for at least a quarter mile in a straight line, each one packed with different stores. I walked for a while,
browsing here and there ,and eventually purchased a small coin bag for my travels.

I went back to the station, a little tired from all the walk, but glad that I had done some sightseeing, and took a breather in a Buddhist temple.

2 responses to “Two Temples and a Man Purse : Kyoto

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  1. when mi si ‘jook’ mi start lauf and couldn’t stop!! lol
    i’m so jealous, your writing was so vivid i could jus feel the atmosphere as you described it. hopefully i can get there one day 🙂

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