Two Last Temples

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End Sep 02, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Saturday, August 21, 2010

I had big plans for today.  I was going to zip and see as much as I could in my last full day in Kyoto.  When I drive by in the bus, I see temple after temple that I have no chance of visiting.

My plans were quickly dashed as I tried first to find somewhere to buy my bus ticket from Tokyo to Mt Fuji 5th station.   Frommer's said travel agencies could arrange them.  Not every travel agency.   By the time I got to the JBT Agency it was 9:50 but they don't open until 10.  A young woman sneaked in ahead of me somehow when the door was opened.  But eventually I left with the bus tickets - 3 of them.  One from Tokyo to the 5th station the morning of the 23rd.  The second from the 5th station to the bottom of Mt Fuji mid-afternoon on the 24th.  And the final one from there to Tokyo close to 7 pm in order to give me time to get back down....assuming I make it to the top.  I was done with the bus ticket excursion by 10:45.  Most of the morning was already gone.  Up until the last minute I wavered about my exact itinerary for the day.  I decided on Sanjusangendo Hall first, then Kiyomisudera Temple second.  They are both on the #100 bus line and that is the easiest and perhaps I could go back to the gift shop at the traditional craft museum if I had time before spending the afternoon at the Nijo Castle.  So those were my plans.

Sanjusangendo Hall was extraordinary.  It is said to be the longest building in Japan or Asia.   What further amazed me was how it was built.  Granted it had been burned down and rebuilt but this building is old yet it appears to be extremely strong and well built.  The pieces of wood are huge;  They used a special technique for the foundation alternating sand and clay.  They had one piece of wood that was kind of shredded because of the archery competitions.  One event of the competition held here was an all day event.  You shot as many arrows as you could in a 24 hr period.  I think the winner averaged something like 9 shots per minute making over 8 thousand out of 13 thousand shots - at least that is what I think I remember.  This too was extraordinary.

After coming from the torii gate temple yesterday, I get the impression that multiples ,,, in huge something that is desirable here.  However, there are only 1001 statues of Buddha here.  The long gallery of this huge building has all these statues standing in rows as if on bleachers.  The Buddhas are golden, similar in appearance but with subtle variations.  In front of them are carved wooden representations of various Buddhist holy figures.  As you moved down the line of carvings, there were altars where people could pray and make offerings.  It was a very comforting mellow atmosphere despite the fact that since today is Saturday, the temples are at least twice as crowded.  Today I noticed different demographics.  There were more toddlers and children in strollers than I have seen before and maybe a few more middle-aged and elderly but I can't really say that there seem to be very many out and about.  I have to look at my photos but I don't think there was much else besides the main building and we couldn't take photos in there.

A short bus ride later and I was on my way up a rather long hill to Kiyomisudera Temple - the Temple of the Pure Water.  A digression here because I have been very struck by the clear water here in Kyoto.  The water in the old canals, in drains along the streets or even some ditches all looks so clear.  It is hard to believe.  I may have seen one or two ponds with lots of algae but otherwise water seems to be highly respected and you don't typically find trash and garbage in the water.  This temple complex is most notable to me because of the height of the hill to reach it.  The view was lovely.  There were quite a number of pipes with clear, running water that people used to cleanse their hands and to drink.  Then to add to the water theme, it started to rain.  I put on my poncho and then it stopped raining but I was soaked somehow.  It didn't feel bad...actually it was a relief from the heat but didn't look very good.  And by now of course, I was quite conscious of not being up to fashion standards.  I was looking for the garden which was supposed to be one of the best but was informed by a helpful couple that it is closed during these summer months.  Now since it was after 2 pm and I was flagging a bit, I debated whether to rush to the castle or not.  I checked out a few shops....the entire street leading up to the Temple was filled with souvenir shops and little restaurants.  I guess it is an indication of the popularity of a temple when there are so many shops nearby to attract the temple visitors. 

By the time I got moving, I thought it was too late for Nijo and it was time to get some dinner.  I checked out my Frommer's and was going to be adventurous and picked a sushi place in Kyoto center.  I went back to the station and found the appropriate bus and waited for the right stop.  And waited.  It seemed like more than the minute Frommer's said it would take.  I got off the first time it stopped and asked a young woman for directions.  She thought I was 2 stops beyond where I should have been so she kindly waited at the bus stop with me until the #205 came in the opposite direction.  I was ready to get on but she held me back and said I was supposed to get on the next bus right behind this one....also #205.  Ah, I thought to myself, I picked an express bus.  So I got on this bus and waited.....until I got back to Kyoto Station stops.  The young lady and I were talking while waiting for the bus and she said she thought that people in Kyoto were kind (and helpful) because a lot of foreigners come to Kyoto.  She was certainly very kind and everyone ...or nearly everyone....that I asked for help was nice to me.  Can't say that about everywhere.

At this point I decided to eat at Kyoto Station again but picked a new spot:  a restaurant on the 9th floor of a big department store.  The elevators were slow.  Some had elevator girls dressed in blue uniforms with Santa Claus type hats, but rounded, not pointed.  I had more sushi and beer overlooking the Kyoto Tower and the city of Kyoto.  It was a fine setting for my last dinner in Kyoto.

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