Kyoto Days, Continued
11.03.2015 - 13.03.2015
So sorry for the silence. Dick and I have both been under the weather and took off about a day and a half to recuperate/rejuvenate. A few days ago, we visited Toji Temple (temples are Buddhist, shrines are Shinto), a 15 minute walk south of Kyoto Station. Even though it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's not in our otherwise excellent Kyoto guidebook, for whatever reason, so I'm glad the tourist information center steered us its way.
The temple was founded in the 700's. We were able to go into the ground floors of the buildings, but could not take any photos, alas.
The grounds feature the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan, at 187 feet. The original structure was built in the 9th Century, but that building and its successors were destroyed by fire several times. The current building was constructed in 1644. None of the pagodas was ever destroyed by an earthquake because of their engineering.
The 9th Century monk, Kukai (maybe that's who the Bellevue ramen restaurant is named after) aka Kobo Daishi, used to live on the grounds in this building. He founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism, developed the hiragana system of writing in Japan, founded the religious community of Koyasan (where we will be going later in our travels), and established Japan's first private school.
Here are some other photos from the temple grounds:
We also saw our first cherry blossoms at the temple site. It has been much colder here than back home, so the blossoms will occur later.
One of our lasting pleasures of our trip to Japan is the friendships we've formed with two young people, who were our volunteer guides the first time we came to Kyoto in 2012. Many of Japan's larger cities offer English speaking volunteer guides. In Kyoto, the Good Samaritan program features college students. You can ask for a volunteer guide online; it's free, although you are expected to pay for their transport, entrance fee, any food for your trip, which seems only fair. So in 2012, we were still not familiar with the city or the transportation system, and asked for guides to take us into the suburbs:
Yuuki took us to see the gorgeous fall colors in Arashiyama
Yuki took us to see the famous temples at Ohara:
Good Samaritans encourages its clients to become friends with their tour guides on Facebook, so we've kept up with Yuuki and Yuki since then. In 2014, when we returned, we looked them up directly. This time, Yuuki accompanied us to Fushimi Inari, the shrine with the 10,000 torii gates.
Yuki took us back out to Arashiyama to visit the garden and villa of a famous Japanese movie actor.
This year, Yuki is doing some kind of exchange program to Victoria, BC. So in February she took the Victoria Clipper down to see us for a weekend. And today we visited with Yuuki in Kyoto. It has been and, we hope, will continue to be our great pleasure and privilege to know these outstanding young people.
Finally, Dick went out for a walk the other day. Kyoto is a city of canals and rivers. He saw a gray heron sitting in a canal. Not a particularly unusual sight. But then the heron started looking up! Herons usually look down--that's where their food is. Not this time!