Finding temples in the treetops

Kenin-Ji through the trees

Hi all. I didn’t realise I had so many avid readers. Thanks for the comments! I will try and make this entry a little less rambling story than the first.

Today was about two things: orienting myself properly with Kyoto, and checking out some of the main temples and sites. I knew the handful yesterday were just teasers for the main course of larger sites… and boy am I full right now.

Yesterday I hinted at the paradigm of new city (relatively) and old culture, but it was way more evident today as I did the pretty well defined tourist walk north through southern Higashiyama. I know some of you will be familiar with it, but for those not, it is where Kyoto meets the Higashiyama mountains. In some ways it’s like cliffs meeting the water… a radical change of scenery.

The main temple complex that greets you after negotiating some narrow and windy, packed, vendor laden streets, is Kiyomizu-dera. I gotta say, I wasn’t prepared for it. Where yesterday was a small temple complex buired in city streets, this was a massive multi-temple complex buried in the mountains, greeting you in the only way Kyoto knows how…

Kiyomizu-dera shrine entry

Oh, and just in case you are thinking maybe I am typing this from my house and using photos stolen off the web, here is a gratuitous self-portrait (looking a bit ragged already thanks to today’s fickle weather).

Kiyomizu-dera self-portrait

Sure, this entryway might seem pretty cool, but venture past and you get things like this in your face…

Kiyomizu-dera in the treetops

Paths went around temples, right to the forest, down to the ground, up to the treetops. It was all pretty awe inspiring.

More Kiyomizu-dera wonder

Over the course of the day, I visited numerous more temples of all varying shapes and sizes. Chion-in was my other highlight. Pretty much at the end of my days walking I ventured into the grounds of Chion-in and into the main temple, where like yesterday I came across a packed buddhist ceremony. Being tired and wanting to rest, I soaked up about half an hour of chanting and bell ringing. What did it mean? I have no idea, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was quite affecting.

The other magical part of my day was simply traversing the narrow streets between temples, those that form a beguiling link between the city and the temples. Most are lined with small restaurants or shops, none of which I found too gratuitously tourist oriented (apart from a small strip leading to Kiyomizu-dera). Red lanterns were displayed proudly in one street.

Raise the Red Lantern

They were cobblestone lined, with steep stairs leading up and down and around. Quite gorgeous. Except for this rabbit. He freaked me out.

Demonic Rabbit

One odd transition was on leaving Maruyama-koen gardens and finding myself in Gion. Gion is the geisha district and can either be thought of as home of an ancient art, or seedy entertainment district. By day it appears as at least part of the former, but by night I believe it might be a bit of the latter (if these signs lining the laneways are anything to go by… “Pick Up” and “Happy Zone” worry me in particular).

Gion "entertainment" district

True geisha’s still do exist in this part of town apparently, but spotting them is a rarity. As close as I came were these two in one of the streets leading up to Kiyomizu-dera. My spidey-senses told me they weren’t real geishas.

Real Geishas? Um, I don't think so.

So anyway what does the title of this post mean? Well, there were a number of temples I found simply my catching a glimpse of a temple roof in the trees. I have a LOT of photos of temples through trees (in a way they are my new ‘dolphin photos’ as I call these kinds of photos, like “look there’s a dolphin! take a photo! there’s another dolphin! take another photo!”), but I know that none do justice compared with catching an actual glimpse of a temple roof through some trees when you least expect it. But somehow it all feels like Kyoto though, a seamless mix of temples and city.

P.S Things I learnt today…

1. I have learned to thank the government for getting rid of tobacco advertising. I can’t unsee this image. Now you lot can’t unsee it. It’s everywhere here too.

Look away!

2. I have learned that the only thing better than beer I have never tried, like this, for 130 yen (about $1.70)…

Asahi Clear

… is big-ass cans of Calpis for 120 yen (about $1.50)

Big-ass Calpis

P.P.S This turned out to be kinda more rambling than the last post didn’t it?

One comment

  1. June 24, 2010 at 8:59 am



Leave a Reply