Reub's journey

16 July 2012

Kyoto temples and gardens

 Kyoto, Japan, was supposed to be a target for an atomic bomb during WWII but Henry Stimson, US Secretary of War, took it off the short list, replacing it with unfortunate Nagasaki.

Shrine at Fushimi-Inari, Kyoto
And that is why there are still places like this, the Fushimi Inari shrine in southern Kyoto, all set about a 230 meter hill, and dedicated to Inari, the fox-goddess of rice and sake.

I loved the thousands of vermillion gates leading up the hill.

And the little wooden fox heads that you could buy and draw upon. I looked at the back of the one in the lower center of this photo.

Looks like it was from a little girl in South Pasadena. But what was her wish? I couldn't quite figure it out.

There was calligraphy on each gate post and this fellow was touching it up.

John's photo
There were thousands of individual shrines crowding the upper part of the hill. John commented that it's hard to get a picture capturing the cacophony of the place, but I think he comes close here: foxes, shrines and gates everywhere.

And once in awhile a big horse.

John's photo
One day we used our rail pass to go from Kyoto to Nara. This temple, Todaiji, is the largest wooden structure on the planet and houses a Daibutsu (Great Buddha).

This humongous structure was begun in the 700's by Emperor Shomu, back when Nara was Japan's capital.

The grounds surrounding Todaiji are populated by hundreds of deer, completely untroubled by the crowds of people.

Apparently they aren't always so docile.

We were there on a Saturday, and there were many groups of school children on field trips.

Nara's Daibutsu is the largest bronze Buddha in the world. Big big big!

One of his fingers is about my size, and I'm 5'7".

What is it about the dance between religion and power that creates these huge monuments?

Roof detail of a smaller shrine in Nara.
I don't know the answer to that, but I was glad that we went to see Nara. It is amazing and fully deserves to be the UNESCO World Heritage site that it is.

John's photo. His lens had begun to fog up, creating this gorgeous effect.
Back in Kyoto, we walked up the hill from our inn to see Kiyomizu, a very atmospheric temple in the clouds and rain.

Holy cow, did it ever pour.

On a clear day you would get a great view of the city from here, but this is what it looks like in the rain.

All of the temples had incense available. My stick is the crooked one, bottom left.

OK, I'm almost done, but first I have to show you the Silver Pavilion, which is set in the most beautiful landscape. The Japanese travel here twice a year, spring and fall, to take in its loveliness and color.

The zen garden behind the Silver Pavilion is re-worked for those two seasons, and allowed to slowly melt into itself in the months between. Here we see what it looked like for the spring of 2012.

I was mesmerized by the dragon's back: so cool, but deceptively hard to photograph!

After looking at the zen garden we traversed the Philosopher's Walk, a dreamy cherry-tree-lined path along a canal. Along its 2K there were more shrines and sights.

But by this time my head was pretty much filled and I was becoming templed-out.  Each shrine is special and to do it justice you should have a fresh mind. Besides, it's good to leave something for next time, right?


  1. really gorgeous gardens - that dragon back is amazing. the swashtika is a surprise to see in the temple. i have seen those lovely nara deer on a japanese blog i follow. loved the warning sign, however. :)

  2. Laoch: Thanks. It was a very photogenic place.

    twg: The swastika is an old symbol in Buddhism & Hinduism too. Sometimes they are left-facing & sometimes right-facing (like this one). Hitler used the right-facing version, forever giving it a dark impression.

  3. Gosh, so much beauty I don't know what to comment on first. The fog on the lens indeed made for a gorgeous photo. Loved the zen garden and the deer relaxing next to a tourist--a sight one doesn't often see. Great series. Hope you'll be sharing more.

  4. i cannot believe there is a whole temple dedicated to FOXES!! that makes me very happy. (have you read Basho and the Fox? you might love it)

    my best attempt at charlotte's message is something along the misprinted lines of "i wish everyone had focses". me too.

  5. Gail: Thank you! You're not bored yet? Because there is more; I just don't want to be tedious.

    Slim: Yes!!! All dedicated to foxes! But the foxes are crafty and visitors are warned that they can enter your body under your fingernails. Pretty creepy. Good way to get people to keep their hands off the foxes! I haven't read Basho & the Fox, but I will look for it.

    Thank you for interpreting Charlotte's message!

  6. Kerry, you have such a wonderful gift - thanks for sharing it. Your pictures are so thoughtfully taken and framed. This is something you can enjoy in your retirement!!!

  7. Kyoto and Nara are such wonderful,scenic and charming - Looks you Alice traveled through Wonderland ! The pictures are brilliant and breathtaking ! And you found calligraphy in Japan too - your favorite subject,profession & passion :)

  8. Looking at your photos is almost like being on the trip with you! The last photo looks like a Monet painting!

  9. Merry: Thanks! I love taking pictures, but I often think it's because I'm too lazy to paint.

    RR: It was just like being Alice! And I did love the calligraphy, you're right about that. There was a lot of it to appreciate in Japan.

    Pauline: Thanks Pauline. I thought that last one looked like Monet, too. That makes sense because Monet's gardening aesthetic came straight from Japan...those bridges, water lillies and reflections...

  10. I enjoyed this so much. I would love to go to Japan some day. it was all lovely but the zen garden with the dragon's back is amazing. oh those Japanese the way they incorporate art and beauty into everything.

  11. Ellen, the zen garden with its dragon was possibly my favorite sight of the whole trip. Took my breath away.

  12. Oh my.. such beautiful scenes. You and John sure captured some wonderful images. I felt I was right there for some of them. I'm thinking the child's message might be meant to read as "I wish everyone has forests"

  13. There are so many fascinating photos in this set. I think the deer captured my attention the most though.

  14. Hilary: Thanks! That's a nice wish, that everyone has forests. I can go with that. I thought maybe it said "I wish everyone is for(tunate)" But that would be reading bottom-to-top & is an odd word for such a young child.

    Rebecca: The deer were very cooperative photo subjects. I have another, probably better, photo of a sleeping deer, but I like this one because of the non-chalant deer AND tourist. It would be better if I had captured the guy's foot, though.

  15. The vermilion gates, the shrines, Todaiji, the Buddha, the dragons back, the rain, the mist, the deer, the dripping drain, the gardens, WOW, all of these are such unbelievable shots, full of beauty and their own character. But what sets you apart from other people who blog and photograph, for me, is the picture of the 3 girls and their contrasting backpacks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you see beauty in the smallest and most everyday things. And THAT'S what is special to me. Please, i could read about your trip all day. Satiate our thirst, Kerry!


  16. I love you Saul. I really do.

  17. It must be my child like mind but I saw it immediately, she says, "I wish everyone is happy"! :) Probably hoping for peace and happiness in the world. She must be a very happy little girl! :)

    1. I wish everyone is happy too! I'll go with that any day.


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