Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kyoto, Day 3: Choen-In, Heian Jingu, and Ginkakuji

Unfortunately, the weather here in Austin has been cloudy and rainy for the past week and a half or so, so I haven't been able to take any reasonable pictures of current knitting. But I will try to get some pictures soon--I have lots to show. Finished STR socks! A finished Retro Rib! A new sock beginning! All this will hopefully come this week.

But, in the meantime, I have plenty of Japan pictures, so that's what you're getting for now. On our third day in Kyoto, GPG and I walked EVERYWHERE and saw lots of things, including the Buddhist temple Choen-In, the Buddhist shrine Heian Jingu, and Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion.

Amazingly enough, GPG and I were somewhat templed-out by the third day, so I didn't take very many pictures of Choen-In itself. It was a temple much in the style of Kiyomizudera and many other temples we had already seen, so I wanted to save my digital camera's memory.

But, I did take pictures of Choen-In's main feature: the biggest bell in Kyoto.

The Chairwoman says that on major festivals, it takes 17 men to pull back the log you see in the picture to ring the bell. That's how big it is.

And what's really remarkable is that it's completely supported by a wooden structure. On an absolute scale, there are bigger bells in cathedrals in Europe. But I find it impressive that this massive bell is held up entirely by a wooden building, not a stone one. It really speaks well of Japanese engineering.

Here's another picture with GPG in it for scale:

Don't forget that GPG is over six feet!

While we were at Choen-In, which sits on a fairly large piece of property with many associated buildings, we also saw a little wooden shrine with many cups in front. I liked all the colors of the cups, so I took a picture:

I don't know what they were for. Perhaps the gods of the shrine were thirsty?

After stopping by to see the big bell at Choen-In, GPG and I then hiked up to Heian Jingu, a very big Buddhist shrine near Kyoto's Museum Mile. (I am not sure what the difference is between shrines and temples, so don't ask!) Heian Jingu is distinguished in part by the very large vermillion Torii (gate) that stands before it.

I'm sorry about the drab colors. It was a really overcast day.

Heian Jingu was one of my favorite places on the trip because it has a really beautiful garden. I'm sure it's exceptionally pretty when things are blooming and growing, but I liked it even though we were just a hair early for the cherry blossom season.

It also had some fun stepping stones that traversed some of the man-made ponds in the garden in various places.

Of course, I opted to walk on the stepping stones whenever I could, instead of on the regular paths.

And I especially liked how prettily everything reflected on the surface of the water:

I really hope to go back eventually when the weather is better--it's a beautiful place.

Since Heian Jingu was so conveniently located near the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Craft Arts, we stopped in there after wandering through Heian Jingu's garden. I say "conveniently" because I really wanted to visit this museum, and I laid out our walking plan for the day so we'd be able to go. GPG, who is not a knitter or otherwise crafty person, was less enthusiastic. But he was very patient as I wandered through the whole museum, which was terrific (in my crafty opinion). Photography was not permitted; otherwise, I'd have lots and lots of pictures to show you of all the beautiful things we saw in there.

If you're ever in Kyoto and have any kind of interest in crafty things, you really should visit this Craft Museum. There are certain crafts that are designated as "traditional" in Japan, including various kinds of cloth dyeing, bamboo work, lacquer work, knot-tying, building special Japanese dolls, stone work, and weaving. The museum had a very informative exhibit for each traditional craft, plus excellent English translations (rare in Kyoto) and English-subtitled videos in various places in the museum that showed an artisan demonstrating each craft. In addition, some of the exhibits had step-by-step examples of how a particular item was created, which I really enjoyed. The skill necessary to practice these crafts is really astounding! When I make it back to Heian-Jingu, I will visit the museum again to get a better look at everything.

From Heian-Jingu, we walked north to one of the major tourist attractions in Kyoto: Ginkakuji, a.k.a. the Silver Pavilion.

Unlike Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion, which is really golden), Ginkakuji is not actually silver, despite its name. I believe that it was initially intended to be silver, just as Kinkakuji is golden, but the owner ran out of money.

Although I think Ginkakuji originally served as living quarters for a very wealthy man, it was eventually converted into a Buddhist temple.

Ginkakuji is also known for its zen gardens.

The gravel of the garden is molded into a shape vaguely resembling a shield. As you can see, diagonal stripes have been marked out on the surface.

I'm glad I'm not the person responsible for maintaining that rock garden!

Ginkakuji also had beautiful grounds and gardens:

It really was one of the prettiest places we visited, even though the weather was so uncooperative. GPG, with his new SLR camera, was very frustrated with the weather for picture purposes. He actually went back to Ginkakuji later on in the trip to try and get better pictures.

After visiting Ginkakuji, we walked back home on the Philosopher's Path, a path that follows a canal down Kyoto's eastern side. It was pretty, but the sun was going down and our legs were very, very tired. By the time we got back to the Chairpeople's house, my feet and legs were aching with every step. I remember finding it a little funny just how hobbly I was--I felt just like an old woman.

For a final picture, I'm posting something that gave me and GPG endess amusement for the rest of the trip:

If you look closely at the label in the picture, it says:

Very Important Moss
(like VIP)

This display of moss sat next to other displays of presumably less important moss. It was actually pretty interesting to see all these different kinds of moss--in addition to the display shown in the picture, which features 12 different kinds, there were at least 24 more specimens on the same table. And our guide book said there are over a hundred different varieties in Japan. So it was interesting to see some of the different kinds side by side for comparison.

But, what we liked the most was the label. We were able to identify Very Important Moss at all the gardens we visited after that.

Next up: Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoan-ji, and Ninna-ji! But hopefully some Rooster Rock socks before that.


Post a Comment

<< Home