Japan Day 9
March 2nd, 2001
@ Kyoto, Japan
All Photos © 2001 Ting and Randy Vogel

 Today's Travels
 Randy and his sad friend

We were psyched to awaken to sunny skies this morning -- just the thing for another day of adventure-seeking! After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, we set out for Sanjusangendo. While walking through the underground (the safest way to cross the busy streets around the railway station!), we stopped for a quick picture at the ever-changing art exhibition. This time it was Randy in a silent sympathetic scream with his friend, Charlie Brown. The statue was captioned 'Godspeed You Charlie Brown.' On our way out of the subway station, we noticed another branch of the Tsuzuki's Shin Shin Do, where we stopped off to pick up a few pastries for lunch.

Then it was off through the maze of underground tunnels until we came up above ground on the far side of the busy traffic surrounding the transit center at the railway station. The morning sky was bright and half full of dark clouds that careened across the valley, pushed along by an icy wind blowing at 10-20 miles per hour. Doing our best to stay in the shelter of the buildings by taking narrow side-streets, we walked east across town towards Sanjusangendo, the large temple that was our first destination on today's informal schedule.

This temple, formally known as Renge-o-in, or 'Temple of the Lotus King' is popularly called Sanjusangendo for the thirty-three bays of the main hall. Originally constructed in 1164 AD, it burnt to the ground about 100 years later. Arranged on an extremely long altar within this hall are 1001 statues of Kannon (Avalokiteshevara in Sanskrit). The central image is a seated, double life-size, 'thousand-armed' Kannon, flanked by five hundred life-sized statues standing on each side in fifty rows of ten. One hundred and fifty six of the smaller buddhas were rescued from the fire of 1249. Behind the central image are four attendant guardian statues, and lined up along the length of the hall are an additional twenty eight attendants. The carving of these statues and reconstruction of the grand hall was completed in 1266 AD.

The principal image of Kannon has eleven small faces upon his head and twenty one pairs of arms. It is constructed out of many carefully fitted, partially hollow blocks of wood that have been lacquered and then covered with gold leaf. While this principal image is credited to a single master sculptor, Tankei, the remaining statues are joint works completed by seventy craftsmen under the direction of Tankei and his father Unkei over a period of about a century. By popular belief, if one looks among the many buddhas carefully, you will inevitably spot the face someone dear to your heart.

Senju-Kannon #40 was carved by Tankei, the chief sculptor; #50 was done by Koen, Tankei's successor.

Naraenkengo is known for defending believers against evils. The figure of Misshakongo is modeled after a wrestler; he is the patron-protector of those who convert to Buddhism.

Fujin and Raijin are the gods of wind and thunder, respectively. These two deities were adopted from Shinto as personifications of Nature's power.

The twenty eight attendants are gods or spirits that embody qualities such as beauty, charity, strength, wisdom and so on. Kinnara and Kendatsuba are both musicians who attend upon Taishakuten (not pictured).

Birubakusha presides over the Western Paradise and is one of the four defenders placed around the central image.

Basusennin is an ascetic who is followed by billions of soulds he has saved from Hell. He is gaunt and unworldly owing to his zealous adherence to the stricter tenets of Buddhism.

Ashurao is a wicked god who likes to fight. He has six arms and three faces. Karurao is an adaption of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. Makeishura is an incarnation of Shiva.

Taisyakutenno is the creator of the cosmos. Sanjitaisho is a god who punishes the wicked for their misdeeds. Magurao is the human form of a serpent or dragon. Note that he has five eyes!

After a long time spent appreciating the many statues at Sanjusangendo, we exited and wandered across the street back to Yogenin, a temple that we'd passed earlier that morning. We were eager to visit this temple because of yesterday's visit to Hosenin: Yogenin included another section of 'bloody floor' from Fushimi castle. After a short time investigating the small shrines and the temple grounds, we walked up the long path to the hondo, entered, and took off our shoes in the entryway. We waited a few minutes at the ticket desk, only to be informed by the door attendent that Yogenin was closed to non-Japanese visitors. Disappointed, we put our shoes back on, left, and headed across town to visit some of the temples on the far side of the valley.

Walking to the nearby Shichijo subway station, we traveled next to Nijo Train Station, where we intended to take a local train to Ozumasa, the station closest to Koryuji. Being a little distracted from our experience at Yogenin, however, we boarded an express train bound for Osaka. Our mistake was obvious as soon as the train picked up speed, for it blasted through all of the local stops in Kyoto, then headed on through the Mountain pass leading west towards Osaka. We explained our problem to the conductor, and disembarked at Kameoka station. After crossing over to the other platform, we then proceeded to wait fifteen or twenty minutes for the next train returning to Kyoto. (Kyoto lies on the far side of the mountains shown in the picture at right).

Fortunately, the next train was a local, so we were able to return to Kyoto and exit at the stop we'd originally planned on, switching over from the local train to an ancient streetcar for the last bit of the journey. We had selected Koryuji temple as our next stop based on Taro Tsuzuki's recommendation of its fine collection of wooden statues. We stopped at a convenience store outside the train station to pick up some rice balls and cold drinks, then walked a few hundred meters to Koryuji. By this time, the skies had changed from mostly clear to mostly cloudy, and it began to drizzle as we entered the temple grounds. We hustled on to the main building, bought our tickets, and entered to find out that the setting was more like a museum than a temple. In a single, large, dimly-lit  room, about 50 statues ranging in from infant to elephant-sized were watched over by two sleepy looking guards. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted here, and somehow we missed the souvenir shop, so you'll have to take our word that it was a splendid place to visit. 

About a half-hour later, we exited to find that the drizzle had stopped. We made a quick survey of the temple grounds and then planted ourselves in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind on the steps at the foot of a temple building to eat our picnic lunch. Upon finishing, Ting took a few pictures of the buddha statues and other artwork on display, and then it was off to the streetcar station to head towards Rokuonji.

The streetcars were pretty neat wooden contraptions -- probably rivaling those in San Francsico for age -- but the passenger compartment was fully enclosed, owing to the somewhat cooler extremes of winter weather in Kyoto. After riding to the last stop on the line, we exited and walked up through the city towards the hills where Rokuonji is sited. As we walked the mile or so to the temple, it got sunnier and warmer, much to our delight, and we were grateful to finally reach the shaded paths at the entrance to the temple grounds.

Rokuonji is known as the location of the famed Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji. The second and third stories of this building are entirely covered in gold leaf, both inside and out, and the sight of it glistening in the sun across the pond is simply breathtaking. Originally constructed in 1397 AD as a sumptuous retirement villa by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third Shogun of the Miromachi era (1333-1568), Rokuonji was later converted to a temple. At that time there were several palace buildings and pagodas in addition to the structure for which Rokuonji is famous, the Golden Pavilion. Unfortunately, by 1600 AD, most of the other structures had been destroyed by fire and the calamities of war, leaving only the pavilion and a few small buildings. 

Kinkakuji was burned to the ground during the night of July 2, 1950, destroyed by a mad young monk. Yukio Mishima's book, the Golden Pavilion, tells of that episode in a novelized form. Enjo or Conflagration casts Mishima's book into movie form. As lead in this black and white film from 1958, Raizo Ichikawa won the Japan cinema award for best actor of 1958. In 1994, Rokuonji was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After taking time to savor the sight of the pavilion from across the pond, we followed the path winding around the base of Kinkakuji and the zig-zagging up the hillside, stopping at various points to look back on the scene below. Eventually we found ourselves at the teahouse atop a small hill, next to the souvenir shop. Here we collected a few rubber-stamp images, then passed under the gate and descended the steps leading back into town. Back along the road, we'd hoped to set out across the hiking trail that crosses up over Kinugasayama and then descends behind Ryoanji, but we found no sign of the trailhead once we reached the foot of the hill, only the closed gates of large homes pressed in tightly against one another.

Turning south, we walked back down to Kisujidori and then followed it towards our next destination, the famed zen temple of Ryoanji. Although there was a fair amount of traffic along the road, at many points the sidewalk was elevated along the hillside some ten to twenty feet above the roadbed, sparing us from the diesel exhaust of the buses and cars. Just short of the temple, an open-air shop sold memorial stones and statues of all sorts, from traditional pagodas to christian grave markers to the bug-eyed gnomes posing with Randy in the photo at left (8).

By this time it was about 5 PM, and we arrived at the ticket booth to Ryoanji to find it unmanned. As the entry gate was still open, we wandered in to tour the grounds. Ryoanji, or 'Peaceful Dragon Temple' contains the single most celebrated garden in all of Japan. The garden was largely unknown outside of Japan until the 1930's. Like Rokuonji, Ryoanji was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. (The formal declaration actually named some seventeen locations about Kyoto as being cultural sites of immeasurable value, though these two were the only ones we had time to visit.) 

Sadly, when we arrived at the hondo, the gate was shut tight and so we were unable to view the zen garden of stone and gravel for which Ryoanji is famed. We consoled ourselves with the thought that we probably lacked the spiritual maturity to truly appreciate such an austere work of religious art. (According to legend, only an enlightened master can perceive all fifteen rocks in the garden simultaneously; the rest of us bumpkins have to settle for fourteen or less.)  A zen garden implicitly asks 'What more do you need?' Perhaps the answer is in the Kanji sign carved on the temple wall surrounding the garden, 'Even nothing is enough.'

Happily, through appropriation of the power of internet, we are nonetheless able to bring you a few views of the famous garden, plus the following links:

  • A particularly nice Ryoanji story. 
  • This one's almost haiku: not Ryoanji.
  • Here's a long poem about Ryoanji.
  • This links to an art film made in/about the garden: Ma. There's two photos, but not much info about the film besides the title.
  • Here's a bunch of pictures from John Robert Morris' vacation.
And you can find lots more links if you just search the web for 'Ryoanji' using your favorite search engine.

Although some trees and flowers were beginning to bloom, it was apparent in walking about the extensive gardens that winter had not yet given way to spring.
After strolling in and about along the garden paths, we ended up back at the large pond that fronts the temple grounds. No one else was around, and the only sounds came from the contented quacking of a few ducks swimming lazy circles in the pond.

Leaving the temple, we stopping in front of a neighborhood map to verify our location and suss out the shortest route back downtown. As it turns out, we ended up taking the cable cars back to the other end of the line at Shijo-Omiya Station on Karasumadori. After walking down Karasumadori, window-shopping all the way, we stopped to eat at a cafeteria that promised 'American' food...turned out to be pasta, pizza and deli sandwiches; it was good for a change of pace! We paused at a gaming arcade along Karasumadori so that Ting could try out the Taiko game. It was pretty loud, and neither of us could read the instructions on the video screen, so our game didn't last very long!

Next, Ting posed for a few pictures with the giant plastic 'Mr. Happy' and afterwards, we continued back to Shijo station, where we boarded the subway and zoomed back to the Shin Hankyu Hotel for another well-deserved night's rest.

 Another Shin Shin Do Shop!
 (1) Sanjusangendo Ticket
 the Main Hall
 Right Half of the Thousand Buddhas
 Left Half of the Thousand Buddhas
 the Gardens
 Lots of images scanned in from the Sanjusendo Art book
 the Main Altar
 Another closeup of Kannon
 Another view of the Thousand Buddhas
 Buddhas #40 and #50
 ...and now it's back to Randy & Ting's photos...
Yogenin Sign
 Yogenin Memorial Icons
 Randy on the Walkway
 Salt Offering
 (2) Waiting for the Subway
 (3) Nijo Train Station
 Kameoka Station Sign
 Mountain View
 (4) Koryuji Brochure
 Koryuji Ticket
 Koryuji One Heart Sign
 Hairy Tree
 (5) Randy on the Streetcar
 Rokuonji Guide
 (6) Rokuonji Map
 (6A) Rokuonji Sign
 (6A) Another Sign
 (6B) Kinkakuji:
the Golden Pavilion
(6C) Side View
(6D) Rooster Ornament
 Rooster Closeup
 Statues inside the Pavilion
 Another view inside
 Kinkakuji at night
 Another night view
(6E) Randy and the Pavilion
(6F) Anmitaku
(6G) Ting in the Garden
 (6H) Ting on the Hillside
 Pavilion from the Hillside
 (6I) Teahouse
(6J) Gate Roof Detail
 (6K) Randy on the Path
 (7) Rock Strata along the hill above the roadside
 (8) Randy & Pals
 (9) Ryoanji Sign
the Pond
Another Sign
Ting on the steps to the Hondo
A Historical View
View of the Zen Garden
A Garden Closeup
Ting and the Buddha
Flowering Tree
Another Pond View
Willow Trees
Still Another Pond View
Ducks on the Pond
Neighborhood Map
(10) Randy goofing off again
 (11) Ting at the Taiko Arcade-game
 Fuzzy Ting
 Happy Ting