stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kyoto Diary : Five

These group of places are in the hills to the west of Kyoto. Its located in a bowl of mountains, with the south being open to the valley where the rivers join and head down into the Kansai plain. From nearly everywhere in the city, you can look and see the forested hills.

This is Tenryu-ji, and old and famous temple garden. Can you see the way the trees carefully copy the outline of the mountains behind? Thats no accident. Its carefully planned, and this garden (like many of them) has been the same for hundreds of years. Imagine planning a garden knowing it will cared for and maintained the way you see it now?

We had fun watching a group of schoolboys (and their teacher on the left) reaching out, trying to gently toss coins to see if they would stay on the back off the stone frog. Apparently success means that your money will always come back to you. Many Japanese keep a tiny pottery frog in their purses to ensure that happens. (like keeping the toilet lid down - but thats feng shui) So we all went and bought some in the next temple shop!

This lovely building isnt a temple. Its a house built by a famous Japanese black and white movie star. It has spacious grounds to stroll around that ramble all over the side of the hills. Absolutely gorgeous. I am so glad it is open to the public now.

The views are just lovely, and at the maples are in splendid colour right now. There are several viewing places, and I could imagine living there quite easily!

Probably my most favourite of all Japanese tea garden paths (and Ive trod few) Its carefully created to ensure that you pay attention to your feet as you walk, very subtle and clever these paths. This is the view from the tea house, looking back along the path. Absolutely Divine.

The price of admission includes green tea and the traditional cake eaten with green tea. (you can only just see the frothy green tea at the bottom of the bowl. You only get a tiny amount, its for savouring not gulping like English style .tea!

Then we left the busy tourist area of Arashiyma and headed south a bit for an important appointment. Robert, our guide, had organised entry to my most all time favourite garden - Saiho-ji or Kokodera (the Moss Temple). You have to turn up at an appointed time with other groups (only twice a day this happens) and everyone goes to the main temple hall first, and listens to sutra chanting and has to copy out Japanese Buddhist scriptures (actually trace over them) with proper ink from an ink stone and a brush. All while kneeling on the floor. English tourists dont have to finish all the calligraphy of the section of the Heart Sutra - but we always do! I have been before and its always a privilege and a spiritual high spot.

After that you can spend an hour wandering around the huge garden. It is famous for its moss which grew up over years of neglect actually. It has deep atmosphere that everyone can feel. Even the bounciest of Japanese tourists (and they are mostly Japanese) become hushed and in awe of the place, and even the young ones stop giggling and scampering.

It could be called gloomy - but the Japanese have a term sabi-wabi, that explains it I think. Very evocative.

A small building in the corner of the area, but always so exquisitely placed - look at the leaf colour!
Nothing happens in a Japanese garden that isnt carefully planned for effect - this boat, aaaaaahh.

If I had to choose one thing to personify my the total Kyoto garden experience, it is this gate into this garden (not used now - you enter just to the left). I have photographed it on each visit to Saiho-ji and have it on my computers and phone as a reminder .... of what, it would take to long to explain and words would not begin to convey it.


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