Hein (fub) wrote,

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Temples clad in gold

After a tick-free night (or so it seemed -- the DEET spray we used may have something to do with that), we had breakfast at the local café again. The TV was on, and it had a touristic programme on featuring Hokkaido. Obviously, it was all about the food again -- the commentator really was into it, and of course the four ladies in the panel thought it all looked tasty and wanted to eat it. A novelty was that they also showed the prices of the various foodstuffs. Handy -- now you know whether it's inside your budget when you get there, which might save you a dissapointment. I guess.

We took the bus to the Golden Pavillion, which is on the other side of the city from the Silver Pavillion that we visited earlier. Unlike the Silver Pavillion that doesn't feature any silver in its construction at all, the Golden Pavillion is actually gilded on the outside. This makes it a major tourist attraction, even though the building that's there today is an exact replica of the original building, that burned to the ground after a monk-in-training had set fire to it in the 60s -- an event that was fictionalised in Mishima's novel "The Golden Pavillion". Anyway, it seems to be the season for school trips, because once again we were met with large groups of school children. The place was absolutely packed. And once again we were accosted by a group of elementary schoolers who played off their spiel and gave us an artfully folded box. Fun enough, but we were getting tired of it -- it wasn't an exchange of information, they just rattled off their questions, and if you asked something in return, they didn't understand you and just moved on to the next question. So when the second group asked us if we had a minute, I told them we were busy. Apparently we have very "open" body language or something -- so we consciously changed that in a more closed style. No more schoolkids asked us anything after that, even though all the places we went were crawling with 'em. Or perhaps they had done their thing at the first opportunity just to get it over with and were 'free' for the rest of the day.
Anyway, the Golden Pavillion was very nice (klik got some seriously good photos!), but other than that, there was not much there. And perhaps it is because I have become suspicious of Buddhism because of what I read in the Judge Dee novels -- but all these temples do have an "exit through shop". This one even featured a stall selling sake with goldflakes in it. It makes you wonder whether the Golden Pavillion is meant to be a religious centre or merely a profit centre for a Buddhist sect...

We set off on foot towards the next temple. We had a stop for a coffee and tea in a small shop, and we also came upon a gallery featuring the famous Japanese woodblock prints. We went inside to check it out, and there was one small print that really jumped out at us -- it's a scene of the famous Zen garden in the temple we would be visiting next, and it is very nice and tranquil, capturing the essence of the place. It will do nicely in our bedroom, next to the other woodblock print we bought five years ago. But they also had a simple (single-color) woodblock set up with glue, ink and paper so that you could make your own. Obviously, I wanted to try it, and a helpful lady who seemed to like my enthusiasm and interest helped me through the process. So now I have a self-printed woodblock print featuring a scene from the same "dry landscape garden", with the name of the street, the temple and the gallery in Japanese script on it. I put it in the brown paper bag and in my hardcover notebook so that it will return with me undamaged.

So then we arrived at the Ryoanji, the Zen Buddhist temple with the famous rock-and-gravel garden. Again, the place was packed with schoolkids. Everyone made a sprint for the rock garden, but we took it on our own pace and also enjoyed the pond that was in front of the main temple. The viewing platform for the rock garden was packed with noisily chatting people and the sound of digital cameras -- none of the "contemplative silence" the guidebook promised us! I had hoped I would be more impressed with the garden than I was -- the gravel made it hard to see the lines from a distance, and the grooves weren't that deep. If the designer had used the white sand as it was used in the Silver Pavillion, the lines and patterns would have been much clearer.
We escaped the noise and the crowds, and ducked into the landscape garden, that everyone ignored in their touristic "must-see-all-the-highlights-in-one-day" deathmarch. That garden featured some really cool conifers, that had been cut to grow sideways. Some shoots would grow straight up, and were allowed to grow for ten years before being cut themselves. I haven't seen anything like it before, and it was really interesting to see -- perhaps even more interesting than the rock garden itself, and almost everyone gave it a miss...
We completed our tour of the large pond and left the temple, to continue on to the Ninnaji.

The Ninnaji was a temple built by a former Emperor, who became a Buddhist priest after abdicating the throne. There was a long line of erstwhile Emperors to follow. As such, the whole complex was pretty luxurious and the builders had put great attention to detail. The buildings had been rebuilt recently ("recently" as such things go being the end of the 19th century and some parts even as late as the 1920s), but with traditional techniques. The cool thing was that you could access almost all of the palace complex. You took off your shoes at the entrance, and you could walk from building to building using the wooden walkways. It was quiet, with a few people wandering about and enjoying the views of the gardens outside and the paintings on the paper screens inside. Just as we were leaving, a noisy tour group arrived...

From there we took the bus back to the city centre, had coffee/tea and a huge piece of cake, and then returned to the ryokan to do laundry. Tomorrow we'll be sending our suitcases ahead to Osaka through takyobin -- and we'll have to arrange for this at a convenience store, where the poor employees may or may not speak sufficient English...
After the laundry, we ate at a 24h udon restaurant -- for when you need a big bowl of beef curry udon at 3 am, I guess. And it seemed like I lost the map of Japan from the GPS, but fortunately re-setting the SD card fixed that. Unfortunately, I lost the waypoint of the ryokan in Osaka, so it may be a bit of searching before we find it.

Tomorrow, after dropping off the suitcases, we'll head for the Inari shrine -- you've seen it on TV, it's the shrine with the "tunnel" of torii. There's a geocache along the way, and we still have to do a physical cache in Japan to release a geocoin we have. I hope that works out.

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