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kyonoki - 京のキー

Goodbye Kyoto

23 03 08 - 12:09 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

We'll miss you Miss Kitty

23 03 08 - 12:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Plastic Geiko

23 03 08 - 12:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The dark tower

I don't think it was until we stepped foot in the UK that Rhod and I felt the real impact of leaving Japan behind. All our goodbyes were very hurried affairs, with the stress of moving blinding us to how difficult departing would be. It is funny editing these photos whilst sitting in a room in Brighton. I am glad the farewells were short, because any longer and they would have felt permanent. Ironically, the last place Rhod and I visited was Kyoto Tower, one of my most hated destinations in Japan. Whilst hundreds of feet above the ground I got to thank my old boss (Nishida-san) and look out at the city one last time.
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23 03 08 - 11:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Farewell friends

23 03 08 - 11:45 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The last sunset

The sun sets over the tram-line of Sanjo-Nishioji.

18 03 08 - 01:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Koryu-ji sakura

The first cherry blossoms (sakura) of the year (and some of the first in Kyoto) at Koryu-ji Temple. True to form, there were a huddle of Japanese with cellphone cameras all pointed at the more fully laden branches.

18 03 08 - 01:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The retired emperor's quarters

Construction on Ninna-ji began early in the Heian Period (794-1192) and was completed under the orders of Emperor Uda in 888. After abdicating, he took up the tonsure and retired to a hut in the temple grounds, dedicating himself to religion for more than 30 years. The area around Ninna-ji is known as Omura (the ex-emperor's temple quarters). The shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651) rebuilt much of the temple (including the Mie-do-the Image Hall, the Kannon-do, the Shoro-Bell Tower, the Kyozo-Scripture House, the Nio-moneva Gate, and the Gojuno-to-Five-Storied Pagoda). He transfered the Kondo (Golden Hall) to the temple from the imperial palace.

Ninna-ji has been mentioned in literature over the centuries, and is well-known for its grove of Omuro cherry trees (that blossom late) and school of ikebana flower-arranging.
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18 03 08 - 01:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Deva feet

Rhod got to choose our last temple visit in Japan. Whilst we are crazily packing and finishing off our paperwork, the sun keeps luring us out onto the open roads. He selected Ninna-ji, one of the first places we visited together (also his favourite) and one of the most impressive. There is something so Japanese about the place...a microcosm of culture. If you had time to visit only a single place, it would be a good location as it has a grand gate, palace, ponds, temples, a pagoda, shrine and a field of famous sakura trees.
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18 03 08 - 01:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

HooplaKitty

17 03 08 - 07:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Giant pockies

A small party in our apartment and a farewell to the place.
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17 03 08 - 06:58 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Ski for your life

17 03 08 - 06:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Don't leave me this way

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17 03 08 - 06:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Akko?

17 03 08 - 06:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Cave of wonders

Below the Tahoto (the Treasure House constructed 750 years ago by Yoritomo Minamoto, oldest in Japan and used on the 4 yen stamp) and below the grand steps that lead to the upper portion of Ishiyama is a small pond beneath a gnarled old cliff. It is possible to walk through a small cave carved millenia ago and gives the temple a rather other worldly feel, surely one of the reasons the spot was chosen to build Ishiyama in the first place.

There are dozens of treasures within the temple, mostly constructed in the Kamakura Period, such as the Tahoto and the Todaimon (East Mountain Gate, with its Deva statues by Tankei and Unkei). The main hall of Ishiyama is the oldest building in Shiga, built 850 years ago in the Fujiwara architectural style.
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17 03 08 - 04:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Shikibu's looking good

There is a room in Ishiyama, within the main hall, where it is said that Lady Murasaki wrote the majority of The Tale of Genji (perhaps the world's first novel). Now a mannequin has taken her place, staring out across the temple to the Seta River. So many rumours are there about the Tale of Genji that it is almost impossible to know how much was indeed written by Shikibu, where it was written and if she did spend any length of time in Ishiyama at all. Certainly, as the temple proclaims, she did not write the thing in a month (August 1004). Ishiyama does a fair trade in promoting Genji and as we arrived they were putting the final touches to a grand new display that will no doubt part more tourists of their money.

Ishiyama itself is the backdrop to many tales in Japanese literature. Most of these stories focus on love and loss, and the emotions of women. The temple is well-known as protecting women, and a statue donated by Prince Shotoku is said to promote good marriage, safe childbirth and good fortune.
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17 03 08 - 04:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Ishiyama farewell

Below Mt. Gara sits Ishiyama Temple (Setsu Kouzan), resting above the clear green waters of the Seta River with its frequent flock of rowers. Founded 1250 years ago, in 749 by Rohben Sojyo (on the orders of Emperor Shomu), the temple has been most associated with Murasaki Shikibu and the Tale of Genji.

Below the Treasure House is a large area of Wollastonite Rock, a natural monument that is both rare and famous in Japan.
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16 03 08 - 07:13 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Volcanic rocks

With the new train station outside our front door, it is possible to travel most places in the city and out towards Lake Biwa without too much effort. Ishiyama Temple sits on the furthest point (south) of the Tozai Subway/Keihan line and is a 50 minute journey under ground, through mountains and alongside quaint neighbourhoods. The sun was warm and welcoming, making it increasingly difficult to leave these shores. The plum blossoms are out and although there was a steady flow of visitors, it did not seem as oppressive as Kyoto's temples.
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16 03 08 - 07:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Concrete hippos and evil queens

We took Kitty and Gil to the local park to play. Although the place is rather grim in the early spring, it throngs with kids, free at the end of the school year. The concrete slide and tunnels proved to be a hit with Kitty, as she conjured up tales of great castles (the arbor), evil queens (a group of teenagers) and daring escapes (on a plaster horse). I feel jealous that in the middle of a conversation she can suddenly stop, thrust into her imagination and a world adult's rarely see.
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13 03 08 - 04:25 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The beginning is the end

Arashiyama was one of the first places Rhod and I visited together, and there are many fond memories of cycle rides, boat trips and climbs up Monkey Mountain. For nostalgic reasons we walked about the town, picking up souvenirs and trying the local delicacies. Most of the shops sell tack, but that is what the honey-pot town is all about nowadays. It was a little sad to think we will have to say goodbye to the place. Eating pumpkin rolls (as horrible as they sound) we sat by the river and wanted to pull off our shoes and wade in. Unfortunately the river was too high and cold, so we made do with splashing out money and bidding the local sellers farewell.
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12 03 08 - 01:59 - kieren - Photostory| two comments - §

Stone the crows

Crows and cormorants sit out on the weir, safe from human annoyance and patiently waiting for the snacks of fish to come to them. Makes a difference from the summer and autumn months when the local fisherman use cormorants to fish using traditional methods, tying string about their necks and forcing them to dive for food. By fiery torches they fish out in the Oi River, dragging the birds back and stealing their catch from them. Hundreds of years old, the method is now used as a tourist trap. Nice to see these birds enjoying their freedom.

12 03 08 - 01:51 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Aibo and Gil

11 03 08 - 06:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Walking tall

11 03 08 - 05:25 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in is a Tendai-sect temple in which imperial family members served in the priesthood. It began as a single structure raised by Saicho (767-822) after he built himself a simple hermitage on Mt. Hiei. Yusei-en is a garden of moss growing among closely spaced trees spreads out before the Shinden. A small structure called Ojo-gokurakuin stands in one corner of the garden (representative of the 10th-12th centuries). The inner sanctuary holds a seated Amida Trinity, a rare work in that the Kannon Bodhisattva on the left of the Amida Nyorai and the Taiseishi Bodhisattva on the right are not cross-legged. The ceiling is painted, but over the centuries has become stained black by incense smoke.
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11 03 08 - 05:10 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

What's through the arched window?

A small tunnel cuts through the raised stones that hold up cable-car tracks. Meadows sweep down the lower flanks of Hiei-zan on the other side.

11 03 08 - 05:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Moss men

Mossy little jizo statues sit in Yusei-in garden, all but swallowed up over the years. The Ojogokuraku-in hall and gate were once independent structures, but over the years have been swallowed up by Sanzen-in.

There is no doubt that Sanzen-in is incredibly beautiful and as worthwhile as the hundreds of posters across the city proclaim. As you climb up the hill from the bus station, alongside a gushing stream and dozens of souvenir stalls, you get the impression that the area is not short of money. And when you reach the top (beside a jewellery seller and his cat on a leash) the stone walls of the temple are imposing and impressive. But there are things that grate on my nerves. I would argue that a walk to the Otonashi Waterfall, through the cedar forests, or a detour to Shorin-in Temple are more worthy exploits in Ohara. Sanzen-in is expensive, and when you consider the amount of shops inside and the overly publicised merchandise, it tends to stick in the throat. You may still find the solace and calm you were searching for, but after being called upon to try shiso tea and buy various other items, it is tiresome. Come the summer months and you will not be able to move for all the tourists, especially those crowding on to the veranda of the Shuheki-en garden.
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11 03 08 - 04:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Protection?

Slowly the red velveted stools and bright paper umbrellas are making an appearance, signs that spring is on the way and soon it will be warm enough to sip tea and eat sugary snacks out in the open.

11 03 08 - 03:35 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The sound of snow

Our journey to Enryaku-ji was cut short by the seasonal closure of the cable car (even though the temperatures were warm enough to bring out a sweat) and our failure to find any suitable path for climbing the mountain. From the West, it is almost impossible to scale the mountain. Roads wind up to a small elementary school where children frolic in amongst the Heidi-esque houses, but beyond that the forest starts in earnest and all tracks cease. We tried but failed, frustrated that from Yase there is no discernable way of climbing Hiei-zan if you are not in a car. So we stomped back down, more than a little annoyed by the false information out there on the web.

I spotted a bus stop and we arrived at the same time as a bus for Ohara. So plans changed and we took a seat as the vehicle roared through the mountains, passing over babbling streams and beside rice paddies (and a hundred stone-mason workshops, their creations scowling at the road). Peaceful and subdued, we decided it was a fortunate turn of events.
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11 03 08 - 03:33 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fire god

Acala, or Fudo, is the buddhist divinity of wisdom and fire. He is the principle deity of the Myo, or great kings. Fudo is often called upon for protection during dangerous times. He is said to live in a temple on top of Mount Okiyama and is often shown to be an ugly old man surrounded in fire. He has a sword in his right hand to sever material connections and a rope in his left hand, that he uses to tie demons with. His sword is also used several times a year at Akakura in a healing ritual. Anyone who goes to see him is said to be punished with blindness. The most famous legend of Fudo claims that a young girl, named O Ai San, prayed to him for 100 days, naked under a waterfall near his shrine at Ohara in the province of Awa. Once she had returned home, her father was cured.

And Rhod is obsessed with him.

11 03 08 - 03:21 - kieren - Photostory| one comment - §

The sound of hum

Shorin-in temple was founded in 1013 by Jakugen, a son of prime minister Minamoto no Masanobu, as a fundamental training hall for Tendai Buddhist chant. The principal Buddhist image of the Tendai sect temple is Amida Nyorai zazo (a seated figure of Amitabha Tathagata). The hondo, or main hall, was rebuilt in 1777. The belfry is assumed to have been built in 17th century, but the bell and the Hokyoin-to, a stone monument that was built in 1316, have been preserved.

After the crowded madness of Sanzen-in, it seems odd that many tourists shy away from the meagre entrance fee of Shorin-in and photograph from afar. Each time I have visited the grounds have been all but empty, the forest beyond the warning signs of molesters and muggers all but deserted. There is something aweinspiring about the temple, though I cannot quite put my finger on it. The intricate carvings and statues are mesmerizing, but it is more about the mossy surroundings. Unlike Sanzen-in, it sits in the open, hiding nothing away. And perhaps that is why it seems like a breath of fresh air.
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11 03 08 - 03:20 - kieren - default| No comments - §

The sound of silence

Otonashi Waterfall flows softly at the back of Ohara's Sanzen-in Temple, on the side of Onoyama Mountain. Its name -'the Silent Waterfall'- originates from the legend that Seio Taishi (1109 -?), an ancient Buddhist priest, cast a spell to silence the noise of the waterfall so that 'shomyo' (Buddhist music) would not be interrupted.
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11 03 08 - 03:04 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Passengers

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08 03 08 - 20:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Aibo, meet Gil

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08 03 08 - 20:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Dragons

The floating restaurant boat of Shinsen-en gardens, with its snarling dragon head.
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06 03 08 - 04:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Waiting for service

The Koto-Cafe (Old Town Cafe) by the Western end of the Sanjo Shotengai is a spacious, modern cafe with good, affordable food and friendly service. When the counter stools are empty, the owners line up these affable bears.

06 03 08 - 04:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The house of puzzles

Nijo-jinya was an inn and trading house in the daimyo-era of Japan (built in 1660 by the Ogawa family*). Close to Nijo Castle, the building is astonishingly complex inside. From the road it looks slim and unassuming, but once inside the maze-like rooms conceal a secret. Such was the paranoia of the Tokugawa government, that soldiers were often sent to investigate possible pockets of rebellion that gathered at inns. The owners of the house overcame this by creating secret rooms, concealed stairways, hiding holes and traps.

They could expand rooms by removing the sliding doors, place bodyguards inside ceiling spaces and used the newest technologies of the times to protect the building. The encircling walls were thick plastered and straw matting could be dipped in the pond water to protect the roof from the fires that often engulfed the city (one of the primary reasons the house has survived for so long). One room looks like an upturned boat, another transforms into a noh stage, panels sliding over the doors to create a better sound. There is a trick step that sounds like men running downstairs, designed to fool soldiers into following and thus tripping to their doom, and everywhere there are twists and turns, making the house unknowable to anyone but the owners. It is a masterpiece, and although it compares with the ninja houses across Japan, surely beats them in its stylish beauty.

This time Rhod and I took Mitsuko, Andy and Etsuyo. I am sure they enjoyed the trip.
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06 03 08 - 04:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hut of poetry

At the very top of the hillside, overlooking Nison-in and the sprawl of the city, is a small pile of flattened rocks that mark the spot where once there sat a small hut. It is through a winding forest path and quite hidden away, so may seem the perfect spot to compose a spot of poetry. Fujiwara-no-Teika is said to have compiled the collection of 100 poems by 100 poets (Hyakunin Isshu) in the hut that stood on the side of Mt. Ogura.

As Rhod and I descended the hill an almighty snowstorm set in. Thick flakes spat at the ground, whipping over the mountains. Although the plum blossoms are out, the weather was cold and the clouds thick and brooding. After a few minutes it stopped and the skies opened up to a brilliant and warm sun. Odd.
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05 03 08 - 02:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The two idols

Nison-in was founded in 841, but declined shortly after to become just another rotting temple on the hillsides of Arashiyama. 400 years later and a disciple of Honen restored the temple to its former glory. The temple is named after its two statues sat in the main hall, and boasts a massive cemetery that climbs up the mountainside with crumbling stone steps and mossy tombstones. Many famous figures are buried here, including the Confucian scholar Ito Jinsai and his son, and Suminokura Ryoi (the merchant who developed the Hozu-gawa and opened up a canal on the Oi River).
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05 03 08 - 02:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Treasure hall

Rokuo-in is a diamond in the rough, worn around the edges but astonishingly beautiful close up. The gardens may have been swallowed up by the centuries, but behind its earthen walls the temple stands alone, framed by the not too distant mountains of Arashiyama. Although I love the history of the Ashikaga Shoguns (the first dictators of Japan), it is difficult to find any evidence of their palaces or temples still standing in Kyoto. The Onin War did a fine job of erasing most of ancient Kyoto, and with it the glorious home of the Ashikaga. Rokuo-in, like Toji-in, is one of my most beloved places in Kyoto because it has mostly been forgetten, secreted away in a mundane neighbourhood. Few people visit, and that makes the place more special and more accessible. You can look and touch and breathe in the peace of the place.

You may well see its picture printed in the glossy photo books of Kyoto, but rarely do tourists have the time to visit when so many other attractions of Arashiyama beckon. And perhaps that is for the best. Out of sight, out of mind...and the better for it.
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05 03 08 - 02:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Remnants of greatness

In 1380, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu requested that a Zen priest by the name of Shunoku Myoha (Fumyokokushi) build the Daifukuden Hotozen-ji Temple. Fumyokokushi went on to build a pagoda, dedicating it to the founder and naming it Rokuo-in. The temple was ranked number 5 among the 10 most important Buddhist temples of Kyoto and boasted grandiose buildings to match those of Tenryu-ji and Rinsen-ji, its neighbours. The Onin War devastated the area and Hotozen-ji burnt. Rokuo-in survived, and so the name Hotozen-ji was lost. In 1667, Priest Koshin, son of the warrior Sakai Tadatomo, restored most of the buildings.
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05 03 08 - 02:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The shrine of the broken cart

Kurumazaki-jinja -Shrine of the Broken Carriage- was named after an accident that took place. Emperor Gosaga was traveling along the road that runs in front of the shrine, when the ox pulling his carriage stopped suddenly, breaking the thills. The shrine itself is dedicated to the Confucian scholar Kiyohara Yorinaro (1122-1189). Throughout its history, the gods have been thought to improve studiousness, help businesses to prosper and cancel debts. Those who come to pray take a small pebble from the shrine office. On the surface they write their hopes and wishes, and if these things come true they return the stone to the shrine, plus one other in payment and gratitude.

The Geino Shrine is located in the precincts, where the god of entertainment resides. Entertainers from all fields come to pray at the shrine in the hope that they will improve and excel at whatever they have chosen to do. On the 3rd Sunday of May, Kurumazaki holds the Mifune Matsuri. The highlight is a flotilla of brightly coloured boats ponting on the Oi River, recreating the genteel atmosphere of the Heian Period.
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05 03 08 - 01:55 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Out on the town

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04 03 08 - 07:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kitty on TV

Just as we had come to the end of our wafers, a few young women approached Erina and asked if they could film Kitty feeding the fish. They filled her hands with more pellets and took her to the bridge where she loudly called for the ducks. I am not sure if they were working for a university or local station, but the camera sure was big.

04 03 08 - 06:58 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Crawler

04 03 08 - 05:51 - kieren - Photostory| six comments - §

Shinsen-en frolic

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04 03 08 - 05:50 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Catch the pigeon

04 03 08 - 05:49 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kitty feeds the pigeons at Shinsen-en

There is very little for a 3 year old in Kyoto. Every time Erina comes to visit, I struggle to think of things for Kitty to do. So it was one of my better ideas to take a walk to Shinsen-en gardens to feed the fish and ducks. There is a small machine behind a statue of buddha where you can buy wafers and pellets, and so we stocked up and began feeding the wildlife. A sign told us not to feed the pigeons, but the ducks were far too surly and Kitty far too intrigued by the birds to pay much attention.

After she got the confidence to have them peck the pellets from her open hand, she went about attracting quite a crowd of birds.
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04 03 08 - 05:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Aquarena

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01 03 08 - 20:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Perfect 6s for Rhod

01 03 08 - 05:37 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

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

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