Sunday, October 5, 2014

Starbucks With a Temple View

5 October 2014 - part 2

Sunday morning arrived grey, overcast, occasional drizzle.  We knew Typhoon Phanfone was on its way.

We headed out to have a meal, and thought we'd try to get in a bit of sightseeing before it began to rain in earnest.  But life has a way of just happening serendipitously, and today was that day.

We started heading to the river.  I was looking at manhole covers - apparently Kyoto hasn't heard about the fancy manhole cover design movement in Japan.  The ones I've found thus far were rather boring and mundane.  In a decorative sort of way.

Instead, I found an interesting little structure that turned out to be the house for a giant bell.  Hmmm, a bell?  As in a temple bell?

Looking around, camera at the ready, I noticed Richard was standing with his back to another interesting building.  Which turned out to be Rokkakudo Temple, a lovely Buddhist temple just down the road from our apartment.  

Legends as well as ancient Japanese texts record this temple as being founded in 587 (Common Era) by Prince Shotoku, who established a political system for the first time in Japan.  Historians, however, say the temple was most likely founded around the 10th or 11th century.  At any rate, that makes it an OLD OLD temple!

The main building is a hexagonal shape, which apparently is not the usual shape for temples.  And that's why it's called Rokkaku-do - meaning hexagon-shaped.

It really was a beautiful temple.  The main building, the hexagonal one, had tiers of roofs with the sweeping curved eaves that are so typical of architecture in this part of the world.  Decorations were carved into the beams and eaves, but not colored - Japanese design is minimalist, aiming for a quiet serenity that we've come to equate with Zen Buddhism.  

Apparently people come to this particular temple to make requests, send prayers, ask for favors from the deities, or fate, or karma.  Buddhism doesn't really have deities, so I'm not sure why people tie prayer requests on the trees (like on the willow), or on walls, or the special boards around the temple grounds.  I do know that that's what all those fluttering white ties were.

There were also garlands or leis of one thousand cranes.  This is an old tradition - legend says that if a person folds 1,000 origami cranes, symbol of luck and good fortune, they will be granted their wish.  So people fold the cranes, sew them together, and hang the garlands at temples and shrines around the country.  These leis of cranes have also become an international symbol of the wish for peace, and both Richard and I have participated in making/giving these 1,000 cranes at different points in our lives.  So it was good to see the cranes there.

I lit some incense, rang the temple gong the way I saw other people doing (though I didn't swing the rope hard enough for a loud gong sound), and sent out a little prayer for safety from the storm for everyone.
The grounds were beautiful, with an old gingko tree, several rock gardens and pools of koi, and a little red shrine overlooking the water - because the reflection of beauty doubles the beauty in the location.  And the swans seemed to like the red shrine as well.

This temple is located right in downtown Kyoto, and is surrounded by several tall buildings.  And backed by a Starbucks, which has taken advantage of the location and made the back of the shop a wall of glass.  Patrons can drink their tea or coffee and gaze at this beautiful, antique temple.  It really is very soothing.  (Yes, that's where we had lunch, looking at at the temple in the rain.)

We did some shopping so we'd have food in case things close during the typhoon - we were reassured that most places here stay open, but we're used to Caribbean hurricanes so we stock up on food.  My usual hurricane food is cold cereal, since I like it without milk.  But Japan doesn't seem to have cold cereal in the stores, so we have bagels, cheese, croissants, snacks, and tangerines.  Coffee, tea, and water.  We're set.

People were out and about - no idea why these people were all in kimonos, but I told them they were beautiful and the man said thank you, LOL!  We enjoyed watching the little league baseball kids moseying home slowly, ignoring the rain to check out boxes of garbage or play with a banner or two.

You wouldn't know there was a storm coming if we hadn't read about it on the weather website.  And received notice from the embassy.  (Note to travellers - this is just one more reason to register you travels with your embassy in each country.  For the USA, we can do this through the STEP program.  If you're in a foreign country and don't speak the language, you may not know a storm is coming, or any other natural disaster.  Or a political issue.  The embassy will send a notice if they know you're in that country.  So register before you travel.)

And that's it.  All we can do is stay inside and wait out the storm once it arrives.  Hopefully there won't be much damage, no major landslides or flooding.  And we hope we keep our electricity! 

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