nikkō: a rainy morning at toshogu shrine   7 comments

Saturday, July 29:  I leave my hotel by 7:30 a.m. in hopes of getting ahead of the crowds to Toshogu Shrine in Nikkō. The forecast is for 100% rain all day, and already the showers have started. I have my umbrella, so I’m as prepared as I can be in this muggy weather that’s too hot for a raincoat.

I walk past the misty Daiya River on my way up to the shrine.

The Daiya River

Nikkō is known for its brightly lacquered ancient shrines, aged moss clinging to stone walls, soldierly stone lanterns, vermilion gates, whimsical wood carvings and towering cedars. It is known for its ostentatious display of the glories of the Edo period (1600-1868) and the wealth and power of the Tokugawa shogunate.  Spread out over a terrain of forested and hilly terrain, it is an amazing spectacle.

It’s too bad I have to wade through a deluge on the day I’m here to see it.

a mossy stone wall

The lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine complex consists of more than a dozen buildings set in a lush forest. Unlike the simple shrine architecture traditionally found in Japan, here elaborate wood carvings and vast quantities of gold leaf were used to decorate the buildings.  The shrine contains both Shinto and Buddhist elements, like most shrines did through the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when Shinto was deliberately separated from Buddhism. At Toshogu, the two religions were so intermingled that the separation was not carried out completely, according to Japan-guide.com: Toshogu Shrine.  The shrine was listed as a World Heritage site in December 1999.

So I don’t have to keep repeating myself, all parts of this shrine are designated as Important Cultural Properties unless otherwise stated.  I will mention the ones that are National Treasures.  All information is from the Toshogu Shrine website.

It seems I have beat the crowds when I first arrive. I pass through the Ishidorii, the stone torii gate leading into the shrine.  Ishidorii Gate was dedicated in 1618 by the feudal lord of present day Fukuoka Prefecture. The stone for the gate was transported by ship from Kyushu to Koyama and then manually hauled over land to Nikkō.

Up ahead I see the Omotemon, the Front Gate.  It is also called Nio Gate because of the two guardian deity statues positioned on the left and right.

first torii at Toshogu Shrine

Just inside the torii gate is the Gojunoto, or the Five-Story Pagoda.  It was dedicated in 1648 by Sakai Tadakatsu, the feudal lord of present day Fukui Prefecture. It was destroyed by fire in 1815 and rebuilt in 1818 by Sakai Tadayuki, a feudal lord of the same lineage.

Though I try my best, it seems impossible to get a decent picture of it.

I love the ancient moss-covered stone lanterns found throughout Toshogu Shrine.

Torii at Toshogu Shrine

lanterns at Toshogu

Just inside the Omotemon are the Sanjinko, or three sacred storehouses: Kamijinko (Upper Sacred Storehouse), Nakajinko (Middle Sacred Storehouse), and Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse). Harnesses and costumes used in the Procession of 1,000 Samurai, a part of the Sacred Processions held in spring and fall, are kept in the storehouses.

Below is the Shimojinko, or Lower Sacred Storehouse.

Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse)

Nakajinko (Middle Sacred Storehouse) (L) & Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse) (R)

Shimojinko (Lower Sacred Storehouse)

Shinkyusha Stable is a stable for the shrine’s sacred horses. There is a frieze of eight panels of carved monkeys running around the building, depicting the lives of ordinary people. Monkeys have been regarded as guardians of horses since ancient times.

Shinkyusha (Sacred Stable) & Sanzaru (Three Wise Monkeys)

The “Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil” carving of three monkeys is particularly famous.

Sanzaru (Three Wise Monkeys)

The Three Wise Monkeys are up to all sorts of shenanigans. The ema at Toshogu display a variety of animals.

I pass through another torii gate, heading toward the elaborate Yomeimon Gate.

Yomeimon Gate as seen through the torii

The Omizuya is used to purify body and mind.  Here, worshippers wash their hands and rinse out their mouths before worshiping the enshrined deity. The basin was dedicated in 1618 by Nabeshima Katsushige, feudal lord of Kyushu-Saga.

Omizuya (Water Purification Building)

Omizuya (Water Purification Building) -detail

Upper Sacred Storehouse and Drum Tower on higher level

Sanjinko (Three Sacred Storehouses)

Upper Sacred Storehouse

Upper Sacred Storehouse

Upper Sacred Storehouse

Bell Tower at Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine: Drum Tower in back

The Kairo (Corridor) is designated a National Treasure. The exterior wall of the building extending to the left and right of Yomeimon Gate is decorated with intricate flower and bird carvings that are considered among the best in Japan. All the carvings are single-panel openwork painted in vivid colors.

Kairo (Corridor)

relief carvings on the Kairo (Corridor)

Kairo (Corridor)

Bell at Toshogu Shrine

candelabra

The beautiful Yomeimon Gate, designated a National Treasure, is said to have been given the name “Main Gate of the Imperial Court.” It is also called “Gate of the Setting Sun” because one could gaze upon it all day. It is covered with over 500 carvings depicting traditional anecdotes, children playing, sages and wise men.

Yomeimon Gate

Yomeimon Gate

Yomeimon Gate

details: Yomeimon Gate

Guardian at Yomeimon Gate

guardian at Yomeimon Gate

detail Yomeimon Gate

details on Yomeimon Gate

details on Yomeimon Gate

Yomeimon Gate

Drum Tower & Honjido Hall

At nearly every shrine in Japan are colorful sake barrels.  These are kept under cover, and I take an opportunity to get out of the rain to study them more closely.

I don’t know the significance of Kaguraden Hall, but it has colorful intricate carvings like the rest of the halls at Toshogu.

The rain has been falling steadily, but at this point in my journey, buckets of water start falling from the sky!

Kaguraden Hall ??

Kaguraden Hall ??

Kaguraden Hall ??

The Karamon Gate, designated a National Treasure, is painted with a white powder chalk and features intricate carvings of Kyoyu and Soho (legendary Chinese sages), the emperor and his audience, and other scenes.

Behind the Karamon Gate is the Main Shrine, the most important area at Toshogu Shrine, which is being renovated. Sadly, I’m unable to take pictures of it. Designated a National Treasure, it consists of the Honden (Main Hall), Ishinoma (Stone Chamber), and Haiden (Worship Hall).

As you can see, my camera lens keeps getting wet and I have a few smudges on my photos.

Karamon Gate

Karamon Gate

The Shinyosha houses the three portable shrines used in the Sacred Processions conducted in spring and fall (May 18 and October 17).

Shinyosha (Portable Shrine House)

Sakashitamon Gate marks the start of a long flight of stairs that leads uphill through the woods to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616), the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which effectively ruled Japan from 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Sakashitamon Gate

Ieyasu was known to be careful and bold, yet calculating, switching sides when it benefited him. He was not very well liked nor personally popular, but he was feared and he was respected for his leadership and his cunning. He was also at times merciless and cruel, and though he was at first tolerant of Christianity, that changed after 1613 when Christian executions sharply rose.

The Kitoden (Prayer Hall) holds weddings, rituals for new-born babies, and other ceremonies.

Kitoden (Prayer Hall)

guardian at Kitoden (Prayer Hall)

Kitoden (Prayer Hall)

huge cedar tree

By the time I’m getting ready to leave Toshogu, the crowds have descended, as can be seen in this picture.  I’m glad I got here early.  I didn’t expect to encounter many people on such a rainy day, but of course I should know better by now.  Nothing keeps the Japanese inside on a weekend day!

a colorful group photo

moss-covered lanterns

cedar tree

It is a shame that I happen to visit this most elaborate of Japan’s shrines on such a miserable day.  But as it is likely I will not visit this place again in my lifetime, there is no choice but to soldier on.  And that’s exactly what I do as I leave Toshogu Shrine and walk down a long pathway toward Futarasan Shrine.

 

 

travel & arrival in nikko   9 comments

Friday, July 28:  This weekend is my last before I’m officially released from my teaching contract on Tuesday and I begin my last one-week holiday in Japan.  Although classes ended on Monday, we wrapped things up on Tuesday, and we had our final meeting with the administrators on Thursday, we still were required to be available to come in within an hour if we were called about any problems with the student grades.  I figured by Friday around noon if I hadn’t heard from anyone, I’d take off for Nikko, north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture.

It’s quite a convoluted trip to get to Nikko from my home in Sagamihara, but after several metro changes within Tokyo, I’m finally on the Limited Express Nikko-Kinugawa Kinu line which has reserved seats and takes me directly to Nikko.  Through the train window, I get glimpses of rural Japan, which I haven’t seen since I’ve been living close to Tokyo for four months and haven’t taken any trips outside the metropolitan area.

view of farmland out the train window

views from the train

farmland north of Tokyo

train window views

farmland on the way to Nikko

more farmland

I’m surprised to have the train almost to myself for the whole hour and a half trip.  I even take a selfie; these never turn out well for me.  This is maybe the best I’ve ever taken and it’s still bad.

It’s close to 5:00 when I finally arrive to dark skies and sputtering rain. I hop on a bus to my hotel, the Turtle Inn, as directed by Tourist Information.  On the bus I meet Christine from Luxembourg. She’s traveling alone as her husband couldn’t take time off work.  She’s planning to go some of the places I’ll go next week when I move out of my apartment: Hiroshima, Miyajima and Nara.

It turns out she gets off the bus at the same stop as I do, as she’s planning to walk to the Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo), a line of stone statues of the Buddhist Guardian deity Jizo; she has to walk by my hotel to get there.  On our way, I see a restaurant someone told me about that serves a monk’s diet.  I know my hotel doesn’t serve dinner, so I decide to stop for dinner and a beer.  I invite her to join me, but she’s on a mission.

restaurant in Nikko

The restaurant is cozy and the monk’s meal is delicious!  It features yuba prepared in a variety of ways.  Yuba, a food made from soybeans, is also known as tofu skin, bean curd skin or bean curd robes.  During the boiling of soy milk, in an open shallow pan, a film or skin forms on the liquid surface. The films are collected and dried into yellowish sheets known as tofu skin. It may sound a little strange, but it’s really delicious!

The menu below outlines what is in the monk’s diet: Nimono (boiled food): rolled yuba, village potato, carrot and shiitake mushroom.  Yuba with sweet miso topping and koyadofu.  Yuba and vegetable with dressing. Tempura. Yuba-flavored Konyaku / fresh (sashimi).  Miso soup with yuba. Yuba cooked in soy sauce and rice. And finally, for dessert, seasonal fruit — apples and kiwi. Of course, I enjoy a beer too!

“Yuba” festa – monk’s diet

“Yuba” festa – monk’s diet

After leaving the restaurant, I walk down toward the misty River Daiya, following the directions along the river to my hotel.

fog rising off the River Daiya

Nikko

By around 6:20, I am walking along the road toward the Turtle Inn, arriving there 10 minutes later.

The road to the Turtle Inn

Turtle Inn

bicycle at the Turtle Inn

After settling in at the Turtle Inn, I decide to take a walk to the Shinkyo, the vermilion lacquered Sacred Bridge built over the River Daiya.  The innkeeper suggested that I should see it at night all lit up. It’s designated as an important cultural property and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1999.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

According to legend, in 766 AD the Buddhist monk Shodo came to Nikko to teach Buddhism.  The rapid current of the River Daiya stopped his progress.  In those days, it was customary for priests to light a holy fire and ask for divine help.  A god appeared on the other side of the river and threw two snakes that entwined themselves into a bridge for monk Shodo. He was then able to cross the river and build the Shihonryuji Temple, where he could teach and practice Buddhism.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

The current Shinkyo was constructed in 1636, but a bridge of some kind had marked the same spot for longer, although its exact origins are unclear, according to  Japan-guide.com.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

Nikko World Heritage Site

Although, my camera is a bit shaky here, I like how the photo turns out.

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

Shinkyo, The Sacred Bridge

It isn’t long before rain comes down in a deluge.  Luckily I have my umbrella.  I splash back to the hotel, where I immediately change and head for the individual onsen.  There are a couple of small onsens shared by all people at the hotel, but they are used individually. It feels good to have a hot bath before I settle in to my futon for the night.

Sadly, the forecast in Nikko for the whole weekend calls for rain, but as always, I’m hopeful that the sun will prevail. 🙂

Steps today: 12,187 (5.16 miles).

a rainy-day walk in aihara   4 comments

Wednesday, July 26:  Today is the first day I have off from work after our last day of classes on Monday.  On Tuesday, we had to go into the office to clear out all our belongings.  After doing that, a group of us — Rob, Joe, Tobi and me — had lunch together at Jonathan’s.  The rest of the crew, the five teachers who will return to the university in September, had a meeting about the fall semester, so they couldn’t come along. This was to be the last time I would see Joe and Rob.  I would see Tobi on the day of our apartment inspection, when we planned to share a taxi together to Fuchinobe Station.

On Tuesday afternoon, I spent the day packing my belongings into two big suitcases that I’ll send via delivery service to the airport on Monday, July 31.  Those two bags will be held at the airport for a week as I travel around Japan.  All I’ll carry for my week of travel is my carry-on bag.  Carrying a week’s worth of clothing in one carry-on is something I’ve never done before.  A light packer I’m not!

Graham and I had arranged to meet at Aihara Station this morning to take a walk through some wooded paths in Aihara, just a couple of stations from Fuchinobe. It is forecast to rain, but ever hopeful, we go ahead and meet anyway.  As we walk to the Family Mart to have a coffee before our walk, a steady rain begins.

Aihara Station

We are both dressed for the rain, so we decide to go on our walk anyway.  Shortly after getting on the path, we see a brown speckled creature hopping into the grass.  I try to capture the frog with my camera, but he’s too clever for me.  He’s quick to move into camouflage mode among the dried leaves and grass.

a frog in the grass

Before we reach the forest, we come upon some well-tended community gardens and a field of wildflowers.

community garden in Aihara

fronds

community garden

the rainy day path

signpost

wildflowers and colorful houses

raindrops on flowers

rainy day yellows

 

We continue our walk through the woods and gardens and stop to admire views of colorful Aihara along the way.  Walking along the slippery slopes in the rain might be refreshing if it weren’t so hot.

Graham loves getting out in nature and, coming from Britain as he does, loves summer.  He and I have had an ongoing battle during the last two months as temperatures have climbed in Sagamihara.  I hate heat and humidity and prefer cool or even cold weather, while Graham adores the humid heat.  He even loves sweating! We joked often about our love for opposite weather extremes.   There is no way to change someone’s mind about how they feel in certain weather; neither of us has had any hopes of changing the other’s mind!

field in Aihara

We find a spider web glistening with raindrops in the community garden.

spider web raindrops

community garden

field of dreams

I still have a lot of packing to do, so we decide to head back to the station, passing by the cute houses in Aihara.  One has some onions hanging outside in a mesh bag and a bicycle parked in the carport.

mesh bag of onions

bicycle at a house in Aihara

Some houses even look like mini Italian villas.

an Aihara villa

After our walk, we ride the train together in our wet and muddy shoes to Graham’s stop at Sagamihara. I continue to Fuchinobe, where I still have to ride my bicycle home in the rain.  I spend the rest of the afternoon packing my two suitcases. In the evening, I go out for my last dinner at Kiyariya.

I must have every last thing cleared out of my apartment by Tuesday’s inspection, so I have to hand off things to my colleagues who are staying, or dispose of them.  On Thursday, I’m scheduled to go into Tokyo to go over my students’ grades with our Program Coordinator; after the meeting Graham, Paul and I will go to Vinul’s in Ueno for tapas and wine.  From Friday to Sunday, I’m going north of Tokyo to visit Nikko, a World Heritage site.  On Monday, my bags have to be ready for pickup, and on Tuesday, I’ll leave for my one-week holiday!

My time in Sagamihara is coming to a close.

Steps today: 13,148 (5.57 miles).

yokohama: yamate bluff   3 comments

Sunday, July 23: I have wanted to return to Yokohama to visit the Yamate Bluff for a long time.  After visiting Ofuna and the bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura, I head to Ishikawacho Station on the JR Negishi Line.  Frankly, I’m exhausted from my busy day yesterday, as well as my outings today, but I’m determined to visit at least a small bit of this place.  I probably could spend a whole day here, but alas, it’s not to be.

For most of the Edo Period (1603-1867), Japan isolated itself from the outside world.  When the period of isolation ended after the 1850s, Yokohama was one of the few port towns where foreigners were allowed to reside.  Many traders looking to find business and profits in the newly opened country moved into the hills of the Yamate area, known as “The Bluff.”  Most of the homes and buildings in this residential district for Westerners were built after the Kanto Earthquake of 1923; today, some of them are designated as historical sites.  Yamate is now mainly a hilly residential area with leafy parks, international schools and churches.  It is still a residential area for Westerners.

It’s 3:23 when I make my way up a very steep hill to Bluff No. 18, a building sitting pretty in the Yamate Italian Garden.  It was first built at the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926) as a foreigners’ residence after the Great Kanto Earthquake. After World War II and until 1991, the house served as the parish house of the Yamate Catholic Church; it was moved to its current location and restored in 1993.

Bluff No. 18: Museum of Bluff Area Housing

I have a great view of colorful Yokohama from the Bluff.

View of Yokohama from the Bluff

Bluff No. 18: Museum of Bluff Area Housing

The lifestyle in a foreigner’s home during the reconstruction period after the Great Kanto Earthquake is recreated inside the house.  Reproduced classic Yokohama-style furniture reflects the interiors of that day.

Dining room in the museum

Living room in the Museum

sailing ship in the museum

bedroom in the museum

The Diplomat’s House served as the residence of Uchida Sadatsuchi (1865-1942), a diplomat of the Meiji government, who held various important positions such as Ambassador to Turkey and Consulate General in New York. The house was originally built in the American Victorian style at Nanpeidai in the Shibuya Ward of Tokyo by the American architect James Gardiner.  It was moved to the Italian Garden and designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1997.

The Uchidas’ Former Residence: Home of a Diplomat

The Uchidas’ Former Residence & Yamate Italian Hill Garden

The Uchidas’ Former Residence

I’m not sure what this blue building is, but it sure is pretty.

Universal Arts

There are many more historical sites in the former foreign settlement of Yamate, but I’m hot and exhausted and it’s getting late in the day.  I’m still hoping to see the Foreigner’s Cemetery, but first I have to walk down Motomachi Shopping Street, which runs parallel to the Nakamura River. The street served the needs of the first foreign residents of Yokohama, and introduced many products to Japan.

Motomachi shopping street

Nowadays it seems similar to other shopping streets in Japan but with a slightly European feel. There are a large number of high-end fashion shops, hair salons, florists, home decor and souvenir shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.

Florist on Motomachi shopping street

Florist on Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

Motomachi shopping street

By the time I arrive at the Foreigners’ Cemetery, it’s 4:09, and I’m kindly informed by an older gentleman at the gate that the cemetery closed at 4:00. He allows me to take a photo of two tombstones and then I have to be on my way.

The cemetery dates back to 1854, when a sailor, Robert Williams, on Commodore Perry’s flagship The Mississippi died after a fall on the ship’s second voyage to Japan. Commodore Perry, the American navy officer who forced Japan to open its ports, asked permission from the Japanese shogunal authorities to bury that sailor on a hill overlooking the water and to provide a resting place for any future Americans who died in Japan. A few months later, a couple of Russian sailors were buried as well.  In 1861, part of the grounds of Zotokuin Temple were set aside and have since become the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.  Today, a small section of the 4,200 graves can be visited, and the inscriptions often offer an interesting glimpse into the life of the interred (japan-guide.com: Yamate and Motomachi and Japan Visitor: Yamate the Bluff District Yokohama).

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery

The worst thing about my unfortunate arrival time at the cemetery is that I had to climb a very steep hill to get here, so I’m sweaty, hot and irritable. I decide it’s time to call it a day.  It’s a shame I won’t have time to see all of Yamate Bluff, but at least I have a general idea of what it’s like.

I make my way back to Motomachi Shopping Street and the train station through the largest park in Yamate, the Harbor View Park, which is named after the view that the park affords onto the water and the Yokohama Bay Bridge.

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

view of Yokohama from Harbor View Park

windmill in Harbor View Park

Harbor View Park

Harbor View Park

On Motomachi Shopping Street, I stop in for a rest and an iced coffee at a cute little cafe.  Then I get on the train and return home to Fuchinobe to prepare for my last day of class tomorrow. I can’t believe my time in Japan is almost over. 😦

Total steps today: 15,884 (6.73 miles)

kamakura: hokokuji temple, the bamboo temple   6 comments

Sunday, July 23:  After leaving Ofuna, I take the train to Kamakura Station on my way to Hokokuji Temple.  Also known as Take-dera (bamboo temple), it is famous for the beautiful bamboo grove behind the main hall.

The temple is quite far from the station, so I take a crowded bus there.  At the temple gate, a young couple in yukata coming out of the temple seem a bit chagrined when I snap a photo of them.

Hokokuji Temple Gate

It’s been spitting rain a bit as I’ve walked to the temple, but the rain hasn’t eased the heat at all. I’m tempted to walk up the stairs of a mossy hill, but I follow the main path instead.

stairway through moss-covered rocks

Along the main path is a pretty rock garden.  I always love these gardens that have been meticulously and artistically raked by the monks.

rock garden at Hokokuji

Hokokuji Temple rock garden

Hokokuji Temple rock garden

Zen rocks

The sound of water flowing from a bamboo spout makes for a peaceful and serene atmosphere, a perfect escape from the hubbub of Kamakura city.

a water spout to a pond

I find one small grove of bamboo along the main path to the temple, but this isn’t the main bamboo garden.

a small grove of bamboo

Hokokuji Temple belongs to the Zen Kenchoji Temple of the Rinzai Sect. It was established by the priest Tengan Eko in 1334 — a time of great turbulence and unrest in Japan — to commemorate Ashikaga Ietoki, grandfather of Takauji, first of the Ashikaga shoguns. The principal image enshrined in the main hall is Shaka-nyorai-zazo (sitting Shakyamuni), which is designated as a cultural property by Kamakura city.  The temple has many other treasures designated as important cultural properties, such as statues  of Butsujo-zenji (the posthumous title of Tengan Eko) and Kasho-Sonjazo, a disciple of Buddha.

The main hall of Hokokuji Temple originally had a thatched roof. However, it was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

The main building of Hokokuji Temple

Today, only the bell tower has a quaint-looking thatched roof.

Bell Tower at Hokokuji Temple

Near the Bell Tower is a circle of moss-covered Jizo statues.

Jizo statues

There is a small stone garden with mossy stones that has a serene Zen atmosphere.

rock garden at Hokokuji Temple

rock garden at Hokokuji Temple

Hokokuji Temple

A yagura is a cave to accommodate tombs; these at Hokokuji reportedly hold the ashes of the Ashikaga family, including Ietoki, who died by seppuku (ritual suicide).

Tombs of Ashikagas

green blossoms

Behind the main hall, there once was an annex in which Butsujo-zenji, the posthumous title of the priest who founded this temple, used to have Buddhist training and write poems.  His Toki-Shu, a manuscript of Chinese poems, and his wooden stamp are now preserved in the Kamakura Museum; they are specified as important cultural properties by the Japanese government.

The site of the annex is where the bamboo grove is now.  About 2000 thick moso bamboo reach densely to the sky in the garden. Moso bamboo is a temperate species of giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan and naturalized elsewhere. This bamboo can reach heights of up to 28 m (92 ft) (Wikipedia: Phyllostachys edulis).

garden backed by bamboo

The bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

path through the bamboo

moss-covered sages

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

bamboo garden at Hokokuji Temple

After wandering around the bamboo grove for a while, I make my way back to the main road where I can catch the bus.  A long line of people is already queued up, and I wonder if I’ll even get on the bus with such a long line.  Luckily I see a restaurant next to the bus stop.  As it’s after 1:30, I’m hungry, hot and thirsty, so I order a cool orange Hi-C and a shrimp tempura set meal.  It’s the perfect escape from the heat and the crowds.

a cool Hi-C

shrimp tempura set meal

After lunch, I take the bus back to Kamakura Station, where I head to Yokohama.  There, I plan to visit Yamate Bluff, a famous foreigner’s residential area.

Information in this post comes from the Hokokuji Temple pamphlet, JintoJapan: The Official Guide: Hokoku-ji Temple, and  All About Japan – Hokokuji: The Bamboo Temple of Kamakura.

the ofuna kannon-ji temple   7 comments

Sunday, July 23: Every time I’ve taken the train down to Kamakura, I’ve passed by an interesting white statue on a hillside near the Ofuna station.  Today, I head down to Kamakura for one last visit before leaving the Tokyo area.  On the way, I get off the train at Ofuna and make my way across a busy intersection and to the hill, where I climb up to see the statue face-to-face.

I couldn’t find much information online about the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple, but I find when I arrive that the temple plays a role in promoting world peace, especially following the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  I’m moved by the temple’s serenity and its message of hope.

Construction of the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple began in 1929 with local volunteers expressing a prayer for peace, but by 1934, only the profile of the statue was complete.  Due to the social conditions and material shortages, construction was put on hold before completion.

at the entrance to the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

fruit drying at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

After the war, Rosen Takashina, the chief abbot of the Soto School, and others took charge of establishing the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple Association. With donations generously given by a large number of supporters, the current white-robed statue depicting the Guanyin Bodhisattva (approximately 25m tall and 19m wide) was finally completed in 1960 and the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple of the Soto School was established in 1981.

lanterns lining the walkway at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

In addition to the striking Guanyin Bodhisattva, there are also statues for child-raising and to ward off evil.

statue at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

In addition, there is a monument to victims of the atomic bomb and a stone toro-style lamp named the Genbaku-no-hi, or “fire of the atom bomb,” which signifies prayers for eternal peace.

A plaque at the memorial says: “The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima brought death to hundreds of thousands of citizens. The flame taken from that conflagration, burning in ‘deep seated pain in memory’ of those who were killed, has been kept burning at Hoshino-mura Village in Fukuoka Prefecture.  This flame was lit from that flame and is placed here as a symbol of our yearning for lasting peace. To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 6 and 9, 1945. Kanagawa Association of A-bomb Sufferers, July 29, 1990.”

Atomic Bomb memorial & Genbaku-no-hi

Atomic Bomb flame – Genbaku-no-hi

Atomic Bomb memorial

origami cranes for peace

origami cranes for peace

Jizo statue at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

ema at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

Guanyin Bodhisattva

lanterns along the walkway

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Guanyin Bodhisattva

origami cranes

Jizo statues

altar in the shrine

I love this statue and am so glad I finally get to see it up close instead of from the train window as I whiz past.

Guanyin Bodhisattva

Guanyin Bodhisattva

water pavilion

ema at Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple

Guanyin Bodhisattva as seen from the walkway

Guanyin Bodhisattva as seen from afar

Guanyin Bodhisattva on the hill in Ofuna

Guanyin Bodhisattva on the hill in Ofuna

I have another busy day planned today.  I’m desperate to squeeze every last thing out of the Tokyo area that I can!  After leaving Ofuna, I’m heading to the Kamakura Bamboo temple, Hokoku-ji Temple.  After that, I’ll stop in at Yokohama to visit the Yamate Bluff. 🙂

 

 

tokyo: mori art museum, tokyo city view, and the aldgate british pub   15 comments

Saturday, July 22:  I arrive at Azabu-juban Station and I know I need to walk quite some distance, but I have no idea in what direction to go.  Instead of wasting a lot of time, I take a taxi, and it’s a good thing I do.  It’s quite a long ride to the Mori Art Museum. I’m rushed for time since I need to meet Graham at 5:00, and it’s 3:30 when I arrive at the museum.  I need to finish seeing everything by 4:30, at which time I need to catch a train to Shibuya.  The Mori Art Museum is on the 53rd floor, so I head upstairs, where I find a monstrous mammoth hanging over the entrance.

Entrance to the Mori Art Museum

The special exhibit at the museum is SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now. The exhibit runs from July 5 – October 23, 2017. According to the museum’s website:  With its total population counting around 600 million, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-faith Southeast Asia has nurtured a truly dynamic and diverse culture. Contemporary art from the emerging economic powerhouse of Southeast Asia is currently earning widespread international attention. The “sunshower” – rain falling from clear skies – is an intriguing yet frequently seen meteorological phenomenon in Southeast Asia, and serves as a metaphor for the vicissitudes of the region. This exhibition, the largest-ever in scale, seeks to explore the many practices of contemporary art in Southeast Asia since 1980s from 9 different perspectives. It aims to showcase its inconceivable dynamism of Southeast Asia that is somewhat nostalgic yet extraordinarily new (Mori Art Museum: About the Exhibition).

I only have the names of some of the installations and pieces, and only some of the artists, because I simply don’t have enough time to note all the details.  I’m in a rush, so I take pictures and move along.  This is the first museum I’ve visited in Japan where photography is allowed.

metal rods

montage of signs

sign montage

dwelling

Below is a “large-scale collage of overwhelming density that fixes its gaze on what is made, what is destroyed, and what is preserved in Malaysia, thereby questioning the ways of the nation-state” (SUNSHOWER: Highlights).

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Liew Kung Yu (b.1960) Malaysia
City of Towering Columns (from the series “Proposals for My Country”)
2009
Photo Montage 213 x 575 cm (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Since I’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, I am captivated by these photos of Asian dwellings.

I’m not really sure of the significance of this exhibit of building tools.

I’m sorry I can’t give any details about these fascinating collages made from newspapers and magazines.

This installation, called “Words and Possible Movement” is by Jompet Kuswidananto (2013).

Words and Possible Movement – Jompet Kuswidananto 2013 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

I saw something like these mesh shapes in the Renwick Gallery in Washington.

shapes

amorphous shapes

ping-pong table

According to SUNSHOWER: Highlights: “More than 1,000 wind chimes jangle in the gallery space.  These colorful plastic decorations speak of the festive nature of Southeast Asia and a global economy supported by mass production, as they deliver a palpable vibration from which we sense signs of change.”

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

Stormy Weather by Felix Bacolor of The Philippines 2009 (This photograph is licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivative Works 2.1 Japan.”)

It’s a shame I have to be in such a rush, but I’m worried about meeting Graham on time.  Neither of us have phones that work in Japan, so it will be impossible to contact each other if we are running late. It turns out after I rush through the exhibit, it’s 4:04.  I debate whether I should do it, but I decide I can just squeeze in a visit to the Tokyo City View Observation Deck, which is on the 52nd floor.  I’m so glad I do as these are the finest, and only, views I experience while I’m in Tokyo.

Here are the views to the east.  Tokyo Tower is the red and white tower.

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

The observation deck seems to have a helicopter landing pad.

Tokyo City View Observation Deck

The views to the west are more hazy, as I’m facing into the sun on a hot summer day.

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

Tokyo City View

It’s about time for me to leave, so I take one last shot to the east and then I head downstairs.

Tokyo City View

I ask at the museum desk about the fastest way to get to the train station and the woman tells me I should catch a bus to Shibuya that takes a half-hour. I do this, and am panicking when the bus becomes stuck in a slow-moving traffic jam.  Finally, I’m let out at Shibuya Station and I am walking across Shibuya Crossing with all the crowds at 5:02, only a few minutes late!

Shibuya Crossing

Graham got to our meeting spot early, so he is starting to wonder if I’m lost, but we finally find each other and head through the streets to the Aldgate Traditional British Pub.

Shibuya

Shibuya

Shibuya

The Aldgate Traditional British Pub

At the pub, we enjoy a meal of fish and chips, draft beers, and lots of laughs, as always. Graham was supposed to bring his partner, Ako, with him this evening, but she backed out at the last-minute because she didn’t feel good. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to meet her.  Graham wanted to reschedule our meeting for next weekend, but as I’ll be in Nikko next weekend, we couldn’t find a time that would work.

When we leave the pub in the dark, we’re accosted by the bright lights of Shibuya.

I had never managed to see the Hachiko statue in all the times I’ve been to Shibuya, and quite by accident, I stumble upon the famous statue.  If you don’t already know the story, you can find it here.

Hachiko Statue

It’s been a long but productive day, topped off by an enjoyable evening with my good friend Graham.  I’ll certainly miss him when I go home. 🙂

Total steps today: 17,653 (7.48 miles)

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