Kyoto: Three Temples
February 15, 2012
There are no fewer than seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. I planned to stay for a week so I could visit a few.
The weather in Kyoto is sub-freezing cold and dreary; snow and rain almost every day. So what can I do? I visit a few. A few.
Near my hotel and just beyond the Kyoto Tower, I find Nishi-Hongan-ji. This Buddhist temple serves as the headquarters of the Hongan-ji branch of the Jodo Shinsu School, with over 10,000 temples and twelve million followers worldwide.
The exterior of the main building is spare but the interior boasts lovely paintings and metal ornamentation.
Nearby, the Higashi Hongan-ji Temple was founded in 1602 as a bulwark against the power of its cross-town neighbor, Nishi-Hongan-ji. The interior is closed. But on the grounds, I find a common element of both temples: a dragon fountain with small ladles for individual cleansing, prayer and purification.
The next day, as I exit from the subway, the threatening sky decides to deposit that clammy rain and snow. I plow ahead. A charming Japanese lady directs me to Nanzen-in, a Zen Buddhist temple originally constructed by Emperor Kameyama in 1264.
The temple and the gardens are surrounded by scenic snowy woods. The ornamental garden has a waterfall and a dragon-shaped pond. Even in the winter, the temple and the gardens are charming and peaceful.
The entrance ticket to the temple grounds says,
“The garden should be appreciated with a calm mind.”
So, quite calmly, I chat up three lovely ladies who are visiting from Osaka.
Always keeping calm,
Except when I need to change subway lines,
PS In the winter, folks in Kyoto keep their spirits up by nurturing plants and flowers in front of their homes and businesses. Delightful. Despite two layers of pants and a few layers of shirts, I’m smiling.