Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Colors of Kyoto

10 October 2014

We started on a walk to the main train station in Kyoto, where the tourist information office is located.  We wanted to get some information on museums, maybe find a subway map, things like that.  

This is maybe a mile and a half from our apartment, maybe two km or so.  Not sure exactly, I can only go by my pedometer.

Anyway, so this should be roughly a half hour walk.  For most people.

Except, well, first there's a gorgeous fabric thing hanging in the doorway of the shop next door.  Then there are little shrines along the way that call my name and demand to be photographed.  Who can resist an orange door with brass embellishments?  Or a building covered in huge glass tiles of green clouds straight out of ukiyo-e prints?  How about a rock garden?  Or the delivery vehicle with a flower arrangement that includes a stem of bananas?  BANANAS!!!!

Poor Richard.  My long-suffering husband who just doesn't see the world in the same way I do.  Who walks ahead and waits, or stands behind and wait, or loses where I am and waits.  I do apologize.  But, well, I just feel compelled to capture all this beauty that surrounds us.

He's good at setting up shots for the hat, which seemed to feel right at home in the rock gardens.  Especially the columnar basalt.  Really.  Columnar basalt is one of the few rocks I can easily identify, despite my upbringing - Dad seemed to really like columnar basalt (igneous rock that crystalizes into these giant columns, somehow usually vertical).  So this was the perfect garden for the hat.

And then there was Higashi Honganji, a beautiful temple complex just across the street from the station.  Where kitties hang out at the gate, hoping for food from the people walking by.  Little baby kitty was meowing, and several people stopped to talk to him, but no one had any food.  (The evening we arrived, I did see someone feeding this cat family, so I think it's a regular ritual for some nekko lovers.  But we didn't think to carry cat food with us, and we were too early for the regular feeders.)

Anyway, Higashi Honganji has a sign, explaining what it is in much better language than I could put together - so here is what they have written in English:

"This is the mother temple of the Shinshu Otani-ha, a branch of Pure Land Buddhism, called Shinshu Hombyo, generally known as Higashi (East) Honganji to distinguish it from Nishi (West) Honganji.

"Honganji originates from the time when Kakushin-ni, the youngest daughter of the founder Shinran (1173-1262), built a mausoleum at Higashiyama Otani to enshrine her father's portrait in 1272."

It goes on for a while about who received land from whom, and like that.  But the final paragraph:

"The present temple halls were rebuilt in 1895, during the Meiji period.  The Goei-do (Founder's Hall), in which the image of Shinran is kept, is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world."

                               -Kyoto City

I showed admirable restraint and did NOT go inside, no matter how enticing the buildings were.  The walls outside, the gorgeous gates, the moats and curved bridges, were enough.  It was beautiful.  We could even see the statue of Buddha from the entrance, but it was a bit far for a photo.

Turned out we could see the Kyoto Tower from there - and I think those are people (CRAZY people!) up on the top round projecting part, looking out over the city.  I shudder to think about being that high up!

The gingko trees out on the road were thinking about turning gold, just little tinges on the ends of a few leaves here and there.  As I said, it was a gorgeous afternoon.


Well, we finally arrived at the station (no thanks to me), and found the info center.  There wasn't much information in English, though we found a few items.  
But the covers of some of the publications were works of art!  I just wish we could have read the info inside.  (Now that I think about it, I should have swiped a few just for the paper on the covers.  Not sure what I'd do with it, but it was just so lovely!)

The two floors below the train station are an interesting mall, with places to eat, buy gifts or travel necessities, all that.  I'm not sure what was being sold at this shop, but the bag was another work of art, and I asked the woman buying whatever if it was okay to take a photo of the bag.  I know, a little crazy, right?  But what could I say, it looks like a classic woodblock print, just so lovely.  And I can't exactly walk into an art gallery to take photos of the art - so I collect it where I can.

There was a colonnade of beautifully tiled columns as well, tiles made in Portugal but I think designed by a Japanese artist.  I'm not sure - the two information tiles were written in Japanese and Portuguese, so I had to use my little bit of Spanish and Italian to guess at what was said.  But I think my interpretation is close.  Or at least nearby.

We finally left the station at dusk, to a lovely view of the tower glowing almost pink in the sunset.

Still on our to do list - visit the Kyoto Museum, figure out how we're getting to Osaka on Sunday, hopefully avoiding the approaching super typhoon, Vongfong, and visit Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, preferrably just before sunset.  

And then onward to Osaka!

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