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kyonoki - 京のキー

Wedding at Yasaka and sweetcorn-choco tarte

Well it's been a rather odd day. Nice really, but when you learn that your apartment is being knocked down in May it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. We kind of guessed it was coming, after all our apartment block is an eyesore and with the new subway station on the way, the ground is gold. I met Etsuyo and went to Jazzy for curry and cake. Kana tries to make a new cake each week and likes to experiment. She is an amazing pastry chef and I loved her sweetcorn and chocolate tarte. Strange, but in a very good way. The cafe will also no longer be around come May as Tad (Kana's father) is retiring and the comfortable little space of jazz and curry will vanish after a good seven years.
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29 11 07 - 02:27 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Kosho-ji

The temple name Kosho-ji carries the meaning 'Striving to establish and spread True Buddha Teachings' in reference to the achievements of Prince Shotoku Taisha, who promoted the spread of Buddhism in Japan. The priest Shinran founded Kosho-ji (the head of the Kosho branch of Shin Buddhism) in Yamashina in the Kamakura Period. Later it moved to Shibutani in Higashiyama. At that time, light shone from the temple's main image. This miracle prompted Emperor Godaigo to rename the temple Bukko-ji, the 'Temple of the Light of Buddha'. The teachings and influence of Bukko-ji spread fast and wide, and the temple prospered.
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27 11 07 - 22:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Carving

The Hongan-ji was established as a temple in 1321 on the site of the Otani Mausoleum, where Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shinsho (True Pure Land) sect was buried. Kakunyo became the first chief priest of the Hongan-ji and dedicated it to the worship of Amida Buddha. The Hongan-ji first gained power and importance in the 15th century, when Rennyo became its eighth chief priest. However, the Tendai sect, based on Mt. Hiei, saw this expansion as a threat and attacked the Hongan-ji three times with their army of warrior monks. Rennyo fled to Yoshizaki, where he founded the Ikko sect.
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27 11 07 - 22:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Western Temple of the Original Vow

Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Nishi-Hongan-ji) was founded by Shinran Shonin (born in 1173, son of Hino Arinori of the Fujiwara clan). At age of 9 he entered the priesthood and underwent rigorous training on Mt. Hiei (Enryaku-ji), the centre of Tendai teaching. After twenty years he grew disillusioned with Enryaku-ji, whose priests he considered servants of politics and society. Believing they had lost sight of their founder, Daishi, he left the temple to seek out Honen (1133-1212), who was teaching nembutsu (saying the name of Amida Buddha alone could lead to salvation) at Yoshimizu, in the eastern hills. He became Honen's disciple.
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27 11 07 - 22:20 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn

Though it looks more like a set from Gone With the Wind, this building actually belongs to the Ryukoku University. Built in January 1877 by the priest Myonyo after he became Nishi-Honganji's 21st abbot, it was completed two years later and was one of the first 'western' style buildings in Kansai. Many of the trimmings and outer decorations were brought all the way from London.

27 11 07 - 22:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Sunset Gate

I visited Nishi Hongan-ji today to see a gate. It may seem an odd thing to do, but this is truly one of the most special gates I have ever seen and could spend hours looking at its intricate details and carvings. Once, like the Floating Cloud Pavilion (Hiun-kaku), it stood in the lavish Jurakudai Palace (The Palace of Accumulated Pleasures), but as with the other parts of the palace (the Chinese Gate at Daigo-ji for example) it was suddenly dismantled by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and given over to one of the city's temples. Many wonder why he destroyed his palace after only seven years, though it is possible he could not face the prospect of handing it on to his successors. A nephew that was meant to take over the palace was instead killed, perhaps evidence of internal struggle and jealousies.
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27 11 07 - 22:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The Katsura

The Katsura River on a lazy afternoon, with Matsuo Shrine just visible on the far bank.

25 11 07 - 00:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

For sake's sake

Rhod and I needed some fresh air, so cycled down to the Katsura River, where the Umenomiya Taisha Shrine sits hidden away. Recently much of the shrine is under scaffolding, and it looks rather sorry out of season.

This shrine was founded by Agata-Inukai Michiyo, the mother of Tachibana-no-Moroe who was the forefather of Tachibana clan, around 1300 years ago. Originally the shrine was located south east of present day Kyoto. After the capital was moved to Kyoto, during the era of Emperor Saga, the shrine was moved to the present location by Tachibana-no-Kachiko, who was Empress Danrin, the wife of Emperor Saga. It is said the Empress was first blessed with a son (Emperor Ninmyo) after she began praying at the shrine. Since then the deity has been revered as a god of fertility. The temple is famous also for its irises.
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25 11 07 - 00:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Komyo-ji momiji

'Komyo-ji Temple was first built in 1198 at a spot closely connected to Honenshonin, by Kumagawa Naozane, one of his disciples. Komyo-ji is the main temple of the Seizan-Jodo Sect. If you climb the gentle-sloped stone stairway, situated amidst a maple forest, you can see the majestic Mikagedo Hall and Amidado Hall connected by a pathway. Both sides of the stone stairway are coloured a brilliant red during late autumn.'

No sooner had we arrived than I was ready to leave, and happy to bid farewell to the small temple. It is not that I particularly hate people, just that I cannot see the point in gathering in such huge numbers to view trees or blossoms. The whole purpose of the temple is ruined by the stampeding hordes, and inside, the monks reading out the peoples prayers (all carefully paid for and selfishly ridiculous and mundane) just make me feel that religion -Buddhism as much as any other- is often a mockery of its original intention.
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24 11 07 - 07:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Burying history

After studying about Emperor Kanmu moving the capital of Japan to Kyoto, from Nara, I had read many books about the short-lived life of Nagaoka. Prizing himself away from the dangerously powerful Buddhist sects, Kanmu settled in Nagaoka in 784 (south west of present day Kyoto) and intended this settlement to become his grand capital. Construction began in earnest upon a great palace, but after only ten years all was abandoned for a new location to the north. There are many theories as to why Nagaoka was left behind. Some said the waterways were too slow-flowing and that come the summer months epidemics thrashed the city, others feared that malevolent spirits were abroad. Kanmu's brother had been exiled after a failed coup, but later forgiven. On his way back to the capital he mysteriously died, though many believed he was murdered. As misfortune befell Nagaoka, many believed it to be the work of Kanmu's dead sibling.
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24 11 07 - 07:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Autumn crowds

Strolling along roads that wheel away from the town of Nagaoka and leave houses behind for bamboo hills and farmland, with their daikon, cabbages and fruit-heavy persimmon trees, we shuffled up to Komyo-ji. This was our first mistake. Lured by the peace and quiet, we had not done enough research. Komyo-ji is famed for its momiji (maple leaves) and in autumn becomes a mad hot-bed of activity. Thus we turned the corner and set our eyes upon an insane hive of bodies: coaches fought for space in the carpark, queues of people wound down from the tiny entrance and I gulped.
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24 11 07 - 07:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Cows and colour

A few families bustled around Nagaoka Shrine, all here to celebrate the Shichi-Go-San Festival (children aged 3, boys aged 5 and girls aged 7 dress up and visit shrines in November). A photographer shot away and Rhod and I slid to and fro, snapping pictures and trying not to get in the way.

Like Kitano Tenmangu (Nagaoka Tenjin is also called Tenmangu), the shrine is dedicated to Sugawara-no-Michizane, a Heian scholar who was unfairly banished to Dazaifu (Kyushu). In 901 he stayed at the shrine en route to his exile. Many times before had he enjoyed music and poetry here. It was with great sadness that he resumed his journey, maybe aware that he would not return alive. From the shrine he could look for one last time upon his beloved Kyoto. Like Kitano, Nagaoka Shrine is linked to knowledge and learning and thus two cow statues rest close to the main hall. If you rub the head of the bronze cow it is said that you will become smarter. Here's hoping.
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24 11 07 - 06:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The first capital

Poor Rhod. We were off on another of my historical trips. I really wanted to see where Emperor Kanmu had moved the capital to in 784, before deciding upon Kyoto as his final choice. We hopped on and off the train and walked through a small Japanese suburban town, no different from a million other small towns around the country. After living in the city, it is always a little odd to disembark in small settlements as it brings home the truth that we are in a foreign country, and also makes things feel a lot more like a holiday than sightseeing in more familiar Kyoto.

A small stroll to the north brings you to a large lake with a wooden 'friendship' pier (not really a pier I suppose as it connects two points and thus is a bridge) weaving in and out from the bank. Although azalea bushes bloom in their dozens come April (all 150 years old), for now the hills are a patchwork of colour and the Hachijoga-ike pond an odd blend of muddy hues. Despite the autumn season, there were only a few families about and it was nice to stroll without feeling hurried or crampt.
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24 11 07 - 06:32 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shinnyo-do

Climbing the turtle-shaped hill of Yoshida-yama, if brave enough to join the river of tourists flowing beneath the maple trees and through the well-worn hallways of Shinnyo-do, you can experience one of the most famous temples of autumn colour. At least that is what the tourist guides say, but doesn't every temple boast the same? It was our last point of call before Nishida and Ishii returned to Kobe, and it is slowly sinking in that soon I cannot assume I will always be close enough to catch up with them. But my time in Japan is not spent and so we walked about, determined that I will be seeing them in Kobe soon.
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23 11 07 - 18:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Finland ho!

Bit of a strange Friday. After an exhausting day of sightseeing, I staggered in to work for a few hours and said goodbye to Miyuki, an artist who is on her way to Finland for 3 months on an internship. All very exciting. As I will be gone by the time she returns it was a little bitter sweet. Good luck Miyuki and Chika, stop bringing rain on Fridays!

23 11 07 - 18:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Konkai-komyo-ji

Nishida's annual trip to Kyoto coincided with Labor Day (American idea, thus the spelling), and a late colouring of maple trees, which trapped him for some time at Kyoto Station. He said it was quite impossible to squeeze onto the buses, so he took the subway. I thankfully had my bike. Rhod, Ishii, Nishida and I walked around Higashiyama catching up, pushing our way through the tourists and generally chatting the afternoon away. Come a traditional lunch of sashimi and beer we left the hotel (all the restaurants in the local vicinity had one hour lines) and walked off our sleepiness on the slopes of Kurodani.
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23 11 07 - 18:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Turtle houses and Koi charming

Genporeisan (one of the most famous of Kyoto's zen priests) was given the job of rebuilding Tenju-an. He later appointed Ungakureikei as chief priest and asked the daimyo Hosokawa Yusai to finance the whole enterprise. Come August 1602 and Tenjuan was reopened. Its buildings have survived until today.

The small rock garden and ponds are particularly beautiful in autumn when the waters reflect the turning colours of the maple leaves.
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23 11 07 - 18:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The ghosts of Tenju-an

My heart sunk looking at the crowds swamping Nanzen-ji. I have never seen so many people swarming over the balcony of the gate, photographing the trees and lining-up for lunch. As I have visited the temple many times I was reluctant to step foot through the gates, but was surprised when Nishida ushered me towards a small sub-temple I have never paid any attention to before. Although the crowds were heavy, there were fewer people inside and despite its small space the gardens were beautiful.
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23 11 07 - 18:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sun sets on Uji

22 11 07 - 05:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Phoenix

In the last days of the Heian era, it was widely believed that Mappo (the last days of law and order before the Buddhist Day of Judgement) had arrived. It was thought that after the world had plunged into war, corruption and chaos, 25 bosatsu would descend from Heaven to save the world. Byodo-in, built in the first year of Mappo (1052), vividly illustrates the yearning of Buddhists of those days for Gokuraku, the Buddhist Heaven.

The name of the hall derives from the fact that the building resembles a Hoo (Chinese Phoenix*, which appears when a holy king is to be born) with its wings outspread. It is renowned as one of the most beautiful pieces of Eastern architecture.
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22 11 07 - 05:48 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Uji

Paul kindly took Rhod to get his Wii fixed at Nintendo Hospital. With a ten day wait, they drove around Uji is Paul's swank new car to take Rhod's mind off of a house without Mario.
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22 11 07 - 05:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Swastika fencing

The deconstructed swastika fencing of Mampuku-ji is perhaps just as famous as the temple itself. It is strangely un-Japanese and adds an unusual air to the temple surrounds.

22 11 07 - 00:53 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Ten thousand-fold happiness

All you who are practising the Way, Pay heed: Birth and death are the one great matter. Nothing is permanent; time moves quickly on. Awake! Devote yourself to your training and do not waste any time. The Junshoban is a wooden board struck at dawn and 9pm to announce the time. The monk chants this verse, inscribed on the board itself. Every hour is sounded on a fish-shaped drum called a Kaiban (meals are sounded on a copper gong called an Umban, which represents a cloud). The fish has a ball in its mouth called a Hoju.
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22 11 07 - 00:24 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §

Mampuku-ji

Obakusan Mampuku-ji is the head temple of the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism. It is one of three zen sects found in Japan (along with Rinzai and Soto) and has more than 460 branch temples. What is rather odd about the temple, is that it was founded by a Chinese man and appears un-Japanese in its appearance and layout. In fact it is one of the few Chinese-style (Ming Dynasty) temples in Japan.
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22 11 07 - 00:21 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §

Shrine to planes

For hundreds of years horse racing has centred about Yawate, first of all in the shrine precincts and then moving a little further away to Yodo. Walking down from the shrine, down thousands of steps that wind about the mountain, and ignoring the five minute cable-car filled with elderly women noisily chattering away, all come to see the autumn colours, you get glimpses of the Yodo valley. Beyond the curtain of trees, you see the river glimmering across the plain, snaking towards Osaka and its banks eventually swallowed up by buildings.

Before catching the train, I peeked into the Hiko-jinja, a shrine dedicated to airplanes, and by extension those of us who fly or pilot them. The shrine is new and looks more like a church than a shinto holy place. There are a few rudders and blades from old planes and a deep connotation that those who died in the Kamikaze offensive are prayed for here. None of the planes date from the second world war (something that would have been folly), though you can see the ripped out engine of a jet fighter.
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22 11 07 - 00:11 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Another brick in the wall

22 11 07 - 00:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Iwashimizu-Hachiman

Every working day for two years, my train journey took me through the leafy suburbs of Tofuku-ji and sake factories of Fushimi, across the Yodo River and about a small mountain that marked the boundary of Kyoto and Osaka. Originally it was the rear 'Demon's Gate', or 'Gate of Evil', of the Heian Capital, demarking the Southern most point of the city's influence. I had never thought to climb the mountain, and it was with surprise that I learnt the Hachiman Shrine rests here in the forest.
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22 11 07 - 00:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Rock of kings

One other interesting fact about Daigo-ji is the Stone of Kings. The Fujito-ishi rock was said to have been valued at one thousand koku of rice (500,000 dollars). Since it was always in the possession of the ruler of Japan, it was also known as Oja-no-ishi (Rock of Kings). It was moved to Sampo-in by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who may well have fancied himself king of Japan.

20 11 07 - 06:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Old older oldest?

The oldest wooden building in Kyoto? Who can be sure, when so many other temples boast similar records.

20 11 07 - 06:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Warlords and rice-cakes

Daigo is Kyoto's biggest temple, the garden is considered one of the best in Japan and its pagoda is the oldest building in the city. The Goju-no-to (Daigo's 5 storied pagoda) is the only building in Daigo-ji to have survived the various civil conflicts that laid waste to the area and is only out-ranked in terms of age by those of Horyu-ji and Muro-ji. Built in 951, the pagoda stands strong while all about it buildings have come and gone.
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20 11 07 - 06:43 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

The trees are bleeding

This post is not about Sanpo-in (one of Japan's most famous, and what this post was intended for). It is beautiful and breathtaking and my favourite garden in all of Japan, but photos are forbidden. Attendants watch all guests at every corner, ready to prevent even the most meaningless photo being taken. So I cannot show you the clear water, the grassy bridges and stunning trees, the tea house and the intricate web of walkways. I can only shake my head that this is not what the designers of such a garden would have wanted.

So I had to be content only with photographing what I could, which turned out to be some of the most stunning trees I have ever seen. As red as blood, as colourful as those rosy apple candy you could once buy from big jars in newsagents, the landscape changed from moody grey to blinding colour.
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20 11 07 - 06:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Big heart temple

Daishin-in Temple, hidden in one of Myoshin-ji's hundreds of lanes, is another example of gardens constructed in limited space. Though the grounds are tiny, you feel as if you are far removed from the outside world and can walk in peace through decorative sand and moss. If you wish to, you can stay overnight. Alone, I wandered about the empty buildings and wondered where the priests secret themselves away to during the day. Much of Myoshin-ji is closed to the outside world, a town of secrets that I would love to explore if I had the chance.
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20 11 07 - 05:35 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The dragon that sees all

The Dragon in the Clouds (Unryu-zen) is a huge painting by Kano Tanyu upon the ceiling of the Hatto (lecture hall) of Myoshin-ji. Since the dragon appears to be looking at one from whichever direction it is viewed, it is also known as Happo Nirami-no-Ryu (the Dragon that Stares in all Directions). The dragon protects Myoshin-ji and has done since the present hall was built in 1656. The temple-town is, however, much older and originates in 1342. Like Daitoku-ji, it has an elaborate layout and boasts 46 tatchu (sub-temples).
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20 11 07 - 05:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Keishun-in

Under the teaching influences of Keinan Osho, Keishun-in Temple was built in 1558 by the Ishikoikinokami Sadomasa clan from Mino (Gifu Prefecture). Although the temple sits in the chain of Myoshin-ji temples, it in fact belongs to the Toukai Sect, well-known for its four gardens built into the tiny space and a tea house frequented by Fujimura Yoken.

I have never learnt my lesson that when a book suggests the temple is a 'must-see', it generally means the opposite and has very little else to say, thus filling the blurb with general statements that mean little. Though you can sip green tea looking out onto the tiny rock garden, and wander through the colourful maple and trimmed azalea, there is very little of note in the temple save a wonderful screen of an elephant. Tigers and elephants -because the artists had little first hand experience- always look far more inventive and cartoonish than they should be.
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20 11 07 - 05:03 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mario's star

Rhod is overcome by Nintendoness.

17 11 07 - 01:11 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The loveliest garden

Chishaku-in's garden (as self-promoted) is one of Kyoto's finest and most famous. It was laid out about four hundred years ago and was inspired by the landscape about Mt. Rozan in China. With its artificial hills and ponds, come May the whole forest and springs are bursting with colour from the hundreds of azalea bushes that crowd the grounds.
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17 11 07 - 01:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hideyoshi's kitchen

Myoho-in comes as something of a surprise. Closed for most of the year, it is possible to peek inside the Kuri, and once you do your jaw may drop. The immense building is quite hollow, hundreds of beams holding up the cavernous space, much like a house of cards. Built in 1595 (the 4th year of Bunroku) by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, it served as a kitchen to feed the one thousand priests who had gathered at a memorial service for one of his parents. Strangely, from the outside it looks more like a small castle than a humble kitchen. 21 metres wide, 23 long and 18 high, its interior is simple and hearty. There is something quite mesmerizing about it, and it is more than a miracle that it survived, when so many others of his buildings fell into dust.
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17 11 07 - 01:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The mirror world

Chishaku-in was originally built as a learning temple in Wakayama. It was with a sense of irony that it was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whose own temples later passed into the hands of the sect he had once attacked so rigorously. The head priest fled to Kyoto and later, in 1601, converted Ieyasu Tokugawa to Buddhism. Tokugawa gave him land from Toyokuni-jinja and later Shoun-ji so that Chishaku-in might be reborn. The priest's revenge on Toyotomi had been achieved. Karmic retribution perhaps.

17 11 07 - 00:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Remembering a son

Once there stood a temple here called Shoun-ji, built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi for the sole purpose of saying masses for his dead son (Sutemaru) who had died in 1591 at the age of three. But soon the Toyotomi were swept away by the machinations of Ieyasu Tokugawa at the Siege of Osaka Castle. He constructed Chishaku-in on the ruins of Shoun-ji, sumptuous gardens and halls decorated with intricate paintings of maple trees and cherry blossoms. The Shuzoko Hall featured painted walls and sliding doors from the Tohaku Hasegawa school of painters (experts in the Momoyama style).

It is a miracle the paintings survived at all. Meant to decorate the living quarters of Shoun-ji, the paintings were swallowed up by Chishaku-in, which suffered a great many fires and theft. Despite this, half remain and have been removed to a special gallery to protect them. They are particularly important as most Momoyama painting that has survived was completed after Toyotomi's death.
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17 11 07 - 00:54 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Rooftop shrine

15 11 07 - 01:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Castle drowning

15 11 07 - 01:01 - kieren - kyonoki| No comments - §

Gilding

13 11 07 - 22:22 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Blue pool

At the base of Mt. Awata, Shoren-in's garden is carefully fenced in by the small temple halls. A pond with blue-grey water pools under a waterfall and in its middle sits a rock that looks like a dragon diving into the shallows. Autumn slowly changes the colours, but the garden retains a warmth, bathing in the midday sun and filling peoples minds with its calm. It is said that if one were to meditate looking into the pond, then eventually you would feel yourself transformed into a gushing river (the motif of many inner decorations). Shoren-in's massive trees could well match any oak standing in the British countryside, whether they are clinging to the great wall at the temple's entrance or majestically rising in the grounds. More than the priceless artefacts, gilded doors and solemn statues, the trees struck me as the real treasures of Shoren-in.
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13 11 07 - 22:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Temple of the Blue Lotus

When Saicho (the founder of Tendai Buddhism) started his preaching at Mt. Hiei there were several lodging houses for priests scattered on the mountainside. Sho-ren-bo was one such house, and later leant its name to a temple whose head priest was supplied from the imperial family (Monzeki temples were run by members of the imperial family who took up religious life). It was one of the main lodging houses and so housed many of the well-known priests during Tendai's history, including Saicho, En-nin, An-ne and So-o.

It was retired Emperor Toba that began a tradition of sending royal sons to the temples of the Tendai. Under the 12th head priest of Enryaku-ji (Gyogen) he became a firm believer and so allowed his seventh son to study under the holy man. Toba built a residence for them in the city, mirroring his own imperial residence, named Shoren-in. Prince Kakukaishin-no (Toba's son) succeeded Gyogen and kept Sho-ren-bo as a special lodging place for priests from Shoren-in until the Muromachi Period.
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13 11 07 - 22:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Steaming for the Tower

For my papa's birthday, my parents took a boat along the east coast to the Thames and up to the Tower.

11 11 07 - 18:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Farewell Lou

A teary Lou poses for one last photo before packing hundred bags into the taxi and returning to Tokyo, and the UK.

10 11 07 - 04:12 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hug day

Recently I have been reading in newspapers about students offering free hugs. The idea sprouted from America and has slowly been making its way across the globe. This little chap was doing his bit. Lou was brave enough to get a hug, though the poor guy did not look at all comfortable. In a country where handshaking is awkward and bodily contact often shunned, seems like a foolish idea after all.

10 11 07 - 04:11 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shock of colour

Blood red maple-leaves in the grounds of Nanzen-ji temple. Soon they will change colour further still and fall, leaving the mountainsides quite barren.

10 11 07 - 04:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Nanzen-ji sheds its coat

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10 11 07 - 04:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A different perspective

By turning your back to Amanohashidate and thrusting your head between your legs to view the spit, suddenly the reason for the sand-bar's name is revealed: Heaven's Bridge.

10 11 07 - 03:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Lurking

10 11 07 - 03:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Heaven bridge

Amanohashidate (Bridge of Heaven) in Miyazu City is one of Japan's three most famous scenic spots. The name refers to a sandy spit which almost completely bisects Miyazu Bay along the Japan Sea (East Sea) in northern Kyoto Prefecture.

From sea level, Amanohashidate does a good job of impersonating a small hill behind a small lake. Rising above at the viewpoints via cable car or chair lift reveals the true nature of the spit.

The proper position of the bridge is in the heavens which requires the viewer to turn their back to the view and look out upside-down through their legs. The view down the mountain, while assuming the proper position, is considered one of Japan's three best views. Millions of people have come to view Amanohashidate upside-down for over a millennium.
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10 11 07 - 03:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Research?

Japan tells us time and again that the slaughter and wholesale harpooning of whales is for scientific benefit. If some of the meat winds up in elementary school lunches and for sale in small market towns, then so-be-it, for it is a shame to waste food. Rhod glanced at the meat on Nishiki, wondering why all the fat. The stall-owner was happy to point out that it was all indeed whale, the white blubber from the chin and underside becoming all too apparent. Please do us a favour and stop pretending you do not deliberately kill these animals for meat. There is no way in hell any of this whale ended up in a laboratory.

10 11 07 - 03:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Meat meat meat

Really this post should be called the last supper. It will be the last time we are all together. Next week our neighbours will be back in the UK for good and our apartment block will be a little emptier and a lot creepier. Although Rhod and I will be following in the not too distant future, for the time being goodbyes are due and we did it in style. Our local 'fancy' yakiniku restaurant, where you cook all the meat you can eat on a little BBQ built into the table. Maria got to grips with the cooking and we ate more meat than is good for anyone.

08 11 07 - 07:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Where once there were gods

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08 11 07 - 07:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The deer and the monk

The upstairs gang took off for the day (and an exceptionally beautiful day it was too) to Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. And were it not for Emperor Kanmu it would have remained so until the birth of Tokyo. Deers roam free, thousands of students are forcibly shown their heritage and a little way from the station, the largest bronze buddha in the world sits inside the world's largest wooden building. Behind the statue there is a small hole in a pillar, the same size as one of the buddha's nostrils (the statue, not the man). If you can squeeze through, good luck will forever blossom in your life. Against all odds, Louisa made it through.
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08 11 07 - 07:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Another's Kyoto

As Lou and Maria trip draws to a close, and as Nickie prepares to leave Japan for good, I thought it was a good chance to post photos from Lou's camera. After being in Japan for nigh on seven years, it is very difficult to take pictures of things that would appear odd or 'Japanese' to my family and friends. Seeing Kyoto through Lou's eye is interesting, often funny, and infuriatingly never straight (I have had to alter almost all of them, I swear she snaps with her eyes shut).
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08 11 07 - 02:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The shadow of Fuji

Fuji lurks in the distance, no more than a vague silhouette, the most famous of mountains and part of the Japanese psyche. Although a dormant volcano, it last erupted only 300 years ago in 1707. It is thought that the first ascent was in 663 by an anonymous monk. The summit has been thought of sacred since ancient times and was forbidden to women until the Meiji Era.
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08 11 07 - 01:32 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Galleons and girly-boys

After picking Lou up in Tokyo, with its neon-lights, never ending food outlets and odd array of strangely dressed citizens, the pair made their way to Hakone, underneath Fuji's shadow.

The volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, centered around Lake Ashi, is a popular tourist attraction well known for its onsen hot springs and its views of Mt. Fuji. Sights include the volcanically active Great Boiling Valley and Hakone Shrine nestled on the shore of the lake, as well as the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands.
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08 11 07 - 01:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Maiko make-over

One set of photos just wasn't enough. Without her approval I have posted these pictures from Lou's camera. Enjoy.
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08 11 07 - 01:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Bitter melons

From the Atomic Dome, paper-cranes and Hiroshima-yaki (a cabbagy type of okonomiyaki) to spam, tropical seas, bitter melons (goya) and the American military. The girls hopped on a plane and arrived in paradise, only to find the clouds grey and a constant drizzle falling.

Over three days they avoided military-men advances, supped on a bizarre mixture of food (pig's trotters and round Okinawan doughnuts) and sunbathed in the warm rain. After warding off a boar attack, they clung on for dear life as a boat sped them to a sightseeing spot in stormy seas, but seemed to enjoy the return to nature.
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08 11 07 - 00:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Top of the world

The Seto Inland Sea unfolds beneath Mt. Misen, a scattering of tear-drop shaped islands spattered about the blue. I think it is the most amazing sight that I've seen in Japan and could never forget this as long as I live.

08 11 07 - 00:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The water gate

Nickie, Lou and Maria left us to journey on a grand adventure, making for the warmer climes of the south and eventually the distant islands of Okinawa. Their first stop was Hiroshima, and the pretty island of Miyajima, that sits close to the city in the Seto Inland Sea.
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08 11 07 - 00:43 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Giant Steps

My workplace, hidden away behind a florist and kitchenware store. The area of Nijo-Kiyamachi is particularly pretty, with expensive restaurants, traditional inns and the small Takase Canal that gives the area its name, all flanked by a tree-lined boulevard.

05 11 07 - 18:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Wedding prep

A wedding party posed for photos just inside the grand gate of Shimogamo. Etsuyo told me that brides wear a large headpiece as it represents hiding her horns, much like the English expression that a woman will show her true colours after she is married. The photographer went to great lengths getting the children to smile, waving pokemon toys around and practically pushing their features into the right pose. It is still very odd to see such famous sights being used for local weddings, though I am sure the marriage ceremony comes with a hefty price-tag.

04 11 07 - 19:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

10 layers

Because of our late lunch of wiener and waffle (the strangest lunch combination I have ever seen) we arrived a little late for the kimono presentation in a sub-shrine in the grounds of Shimogamo. We handed over our money and joined the snaking queue. After a rush of bodies, we piled around a small stage completely closed off from the outside world and watched as two women helped dress a third in multi-layered robes. My photos are particularly bad because of the press of people, the annoying bobbing hands and heads, and because we were far from the maidens. Slowly layer after layer was piled on until there were ten in all, weighing a shoulder-sagging 16 kg. Dressed in a stunning yellow, the woman danced with a giant fan, hid her face and was gone from view. Magical, except rude rude old people shoving. But isn't that always the way.
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04 11 07 - 19:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Imperial tour

Fire has not been kind to Kyoto. It has razed the city on a handful of occasions, sometimes by the hands of the gods and sometimes by the foolish wars of men. Once a grand palace stood at the heart of the new imperial city, designed by Emperor Kanmu, a spot from which all roads ran and to which all nobles aspired to live beside. Heian-Jingu Shrine reflects this once extravagant palace, though on a much smaller scale. Within the Daidairi (Imperial Palace precinct) there was a quarter for state ceremonies (Dairi) and the Shishin-den Hall which took up the central point, a grand building where the emperor held court.
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04 11 07 - 19:12 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Queues

Peering at the throne room through the vermillion gates, and the hundreds of people waiting to move into the gardens beyond.

04 11 07 - 19:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Storming the palace

Behind its great plaster walls, it is very hard to get a glimpse of Kyoto's imperial palace, save applying with your passport at the imperial agency for an official tour of the grounds. Beside this rather infuriating process, the palace opens its gates twice a year for the viewing public. Many more rooms are opened and treasures displayed, thus the whole parkland becomes a giant carpark and the masses descend like some re-enactment of revolutionary France.

Gosho has the distinction of being the second place I had a date with Rhod, and it seems somehow fitting that I should visit on our anniversary, albeit without Rhod who was working. What I really wanted to see was the private chambers of the now-Emperor, his bedroom, the TV, his bathroom, the things that tell me he lives just like me and you but with a few more perks. What we got was a rather sober tour of buildings that are beautiful but rather simple and plain.
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04 11 07 - 19:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Reizei-ke

November, like the early blossom months of April and May, is filled with open days when temples open their treasures to the public. For a fee of course. Many villas and gardens that are closed for the other months of the year, suddenly bustle with activity and it is possible to view objects that remain under wrap and key most of their lives. Of course, limiting opening times means that you are faced with a crowd of people all jostling and shoving their way about you, so it was with a lot of trepidation I met Etsuyo to visit Reizei-ke.

The Reizei Family were once retainers of the Emperor, and their house still exists a little way north of the Imperial Palace, all but swallowed by Doshisha University. The abode has been mainly untouched by modernisation and it is still possible to see the high-beam ceilings, old hearth and tatami'd rooms. Although quite small, many of the house's treasures were on display, and there was a nod in the direction of a reliquary that -being one of the oldest in Kyoto- holds one of the most ancient book of poems in the world. I have to say one of the most exciting parts of the trip for me was finding a tree with bizarre shaped leaves.
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04 11 07 - 16:09 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Armchair

Little old Gil in his armchair.

03 11 07 - 05:19 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Carpet seals

Before Kitty's trick or treating, and strangely for our anniversary, we headed to Kameoka to kill a few hours with Dale and Erina. Baby Gil was inexplicably in a pink jump-suit, and I enjoyed carrying him around and seeing his drooling, giggling face. Kitty was as energetic as ever, showing us her frog-drawing ability and relating to us of snakes in the nearby stream. Erina also told me that after walking Scylla in the rain the previous day, she had wiped her down only to find a leech climbing up the poor dog's leg. Yuck indeed.
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03 11 07 - 05:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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