Day 4: Where we visited 4 places!

Well, technically 3, since 2 of them were sister temples.

Day 4 dawned early. So early, that when we went out, the door was still closed. Then again, it was rather cold, and I suppose that’s a good thing. Have I mentioned that I love our Kyoto hostel, aka Hostel Mundo?

Image of what would look like a typical Japanese door. Yes I just wrote the above so I could put this pic in

Our first stop of the day was this place: Nishi Honganji. Being the older of the two temples, Nishi Hongaji had a very tranquil atmosphere, even with the hustle and bustle of the street outside. Once you stepped into the courtyard, it seemed like the street noise just faded away, and you walk into this serene yet stern compound.

Opposite Nishi Honganji

Interestingly enough, just outside the temple was this old looking gate that seemed to beckon me to enter, to explore the streets beyond. As it turned out, my instinct was right, but more on that later.

Old-looking gate beckoning towards small streets

The temple was huge though. Even with panoramic view I missed out on one of the smaller (compared to the large building you see here hidden by that white wall in front of us) building nearby. The cordoned-off area was marked with a “in process of restoration” sign, I think. Click on the image to see a larger picture, if you want. :)

From Japan Days 1-8

There were two really humongous cherry blossom trees in Nishi Honganji. I have a feeling that when they bloom they will be beautiful, but as you can see from here:

Huge and bald like anything

And here, they were as bald as anything.

This looks like it was lightning rising up

Water came out of a dragon’s spout, should you wish to enter the main shrine and meditate before leaving. It was kinda interesting; the dragon looks as though he was rather annoyed. :P

Water from a dragon

Nishi Honganji had huge hallways that would be perfect for wheelchairs. In fact when I first took the picture I thought of Peter Tan and how he could have just zoomed along the hallways here. They were wide and gently sloped, moving from one lower building to a higher one.

Wide walkways

And right after I took that picture a guy in a wheel chair did exactly that. Which made me laugh a bit. You see, while we were there, it seemed that there was a morning service happening. I think a bunch of people were there at Nishi Honganji for a retreat, and it was perhaps their last day there. While walking the grounds quietly, there was this sort of mini procession of people in robes coming out of this building:

Home to monks?

There was a stern old guy who looked as though he was counting the people leaving the building. After a few minutes, and when there seemed to be no more robes coming out, he went into the building shown above. 10 seconds later, I saw a group of younger men (perhaps around my age?) more or less dash out of the building into the main temple for service. Right after that service, there was a group photo. I didn’t take any pics of that out of respect, but because I had left my shoes near that spot where they were taking photos and I didn’t want to photobomb, I ended up taking this shot instead:

Hello place with warm drinks!

This was a holding room of some sort. There were plenty of vending machines, and I decided to take a drink from a vending machine that mixed your drinks for you instead of dispensing in a can (I was curious to know if it was anything like those 3-in-1 dispenser machines back home and it WAS 20 yen cheaper). Verdict? I’ll stick to cans, thanks. At least while in Japan.

We left Nishi Honganji to make our way to Hisashi Honganji. This turned out to be rather epic, because we got lost twice. It was the first time all our map reading skills failed us. We began by walking down the street and turning into a side street. Which we were then told by some helpful salary people we were going the wrong way. Going back the right way, we continued ahead…

Only to realise as we passed Kyoto Tokyu Hotel that we were still going completely the wrong way. It took us about 10 minutes plus to realise that we had to cross the road to get to where we wanted…

Which meant I got to walk down my mysterious side street anyway! It felt like we were going on a pilgrimage, what with the sun rising high as we walked. And then we reached the end of the road, which told us that we were at the back end of Higashi Honganji. Which meant another 400 meter walk to the entrance.

Which was fine, cause then it meant I saw these fishes swimming in the mini moat (?) outside of Higashi!

I feel hungry suddenly

Walking by the back also meant we passed by the staff entrance, where this taunted us:

Sakura in bloom?

But we couldn’t enter, so we continued walking. When we came across this guy:

Large fish is large

While the picture doesn’t quite show it, the fish, I estimate, was about the length of my arm. Which is still quite large. But once we turned the corner, we were greeted by the sight of the temple entrance, and so it was time to take out the cameras!

Neon grabbing some photos while Wind set up

We took some photos in the front of the temple and then this cutie came up. How could I say no to taking a picture of such a beautiful creature?

Yes? Can I help you?

Yes, you may squee. I know I did. :D Once we went in, we discovered that there were plenty of pigeons. Pigeons who weren’t just FAT, but pigeons who knew how to make use of the bath, aka the place where you wash hands in preparation for prayer:

Hmm... dinner?

Thing is, when they went in… the water was covered with a white film that originated from the pigeons. Which unfortunately my camera could not catch.

Pigeons looking innocent

Yup, his “blergh” face sums it all:

Dragon's blergh face

So after that we started walking around the temple, and it led to a side building where they had many interesting dharma sayings on the wall. However, I had to take a photo of this instead:

Hello Engrish. The sign says 'The Person Concerned Only'

As we walked back, we came across this place where they had an exhibition about the dangers of nuclear power and spoke about how the Japanese had been blinded, insisting there had to be an alternative. While it was surprisingly and brutally honest, Wind pointed out that the Japanese still had their blinkers on. They do not recognise the Japanese sex slaves, even after all these years. Here have some fish:

More fishies

We decided to walk (I’m not sure why but I think it had to do with catching a bus) and came across some interesting sights. Fuel in Japan was expensive. 153 yen translates to about RM5.77 which is much higher than Malaysia’s RM1.90 for RON95.

Random fuel sign

That said, I really like the idea of having the pumps come from up above. It means that you can more space for cars to come into your store.

Floating pumps

As we walked, we crossed another bridge. This one had some oranges, and some of the clearest waters I’ve ever seen. Here, have a tree.

Hello there orange!

And some water:

Water

Someone told me there was a shrine on almost every corner in Kyoto. They weren’t really kidding.

Random shrine is random

After 3 days of craving and passing by a McDonalds’ so Wind could use their toilet, we came across a curry house! And so we had curry! Which was quite an interesting experience for me, though I shouldn’t have been so greedy and instead should have ordered the half set. As you can see, the full set is quite large compared to the half:

Corokke rice!

It turned out to be a franchise. With a stall down the road from where our bus drops us off on the way back to the Hostel. =w=

That jacket is awesome!

So we continued walking and down the road pass Sanjūsangen-dō temple. While it was large and inviting, it was not our main aim.

Large shrine is large

Rather, it was Yōgen-in Temple. This temple keeps some of the bloodied floorboards from the siege of Fushimi, where the defenders of the castle committed suicide when the battle was lost. According to Wind (from a Chinese blog), 300 warriors sacrificed themselves. They had been betrayed by a member of the Iga ninja clan, who in turn, had had his family taken hostage.

Yogen-in from just inside the gate

Without knowing this though, the temple gave me an eerie feeling. While it may have looked calm, it was a very serene place. A place where you would come to rest and breathe. At least from afar. The picture below tells a slightly different story:

Entrance to Yogen-in Temple itself

We then went into a tour where it was completely in Japanese. The two old ladies inside who took care of the place were a bit worried when we mentioned that we didn’t really speak Japanese, but as we still wanted to go in and explore, allowed us to follow the cassette tour (basically they played a tape at most places and pointed out various interesting points).

No pictures here because it wasn’t allowed, but there were a few interesting pieces we picked up (thank you, Neon and Priest for dealing with my questions!). The front of Yogen-in had a pair of animals coloured in pastel colours to soothe the spirits of those who had died. There’s a large altar dedicated to Buddha on the inside. Again, this was to soothe the spirits of the dead.

Why would the spirits need soothing? Because the ceilingboards that made up Yogen-in were the floorboards of Fushimi Castle, where 300 warriors and their families died. It took such a long time for Tokugawa Ieyasu to reach the castle that by the time he did, the blood of those who had died had soaked into the floorboards. They could not clean the stain, so the floorboards were sent to various temples, where they were incorporated into the ceiling. At Yogen-in, you can see the marks clearly on the ceiling. I saw someone’s foot and hands.

After that we walked to catch the train to Fushimi Inari. That will come a bit later. Need to sleep. :P Nite!

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