I pity Yuji, our poor tour guide who tries to keep us collected in a group. In particular, Yuji must deal with me always turning up late for his scheduled deaprtures. It’s not my fault: Japan is too beautiful and amazing to take a quick look then scurry back to the bus.
This morning we loaded all our luggage onto the bus because after touring we would be heading back to Iwakuni. We had escaped the rain the first two days, but today it poured. I bought an umbrella for 300 yen (about $3.75) and was good to go.
Our first stop was the Kiyomizu Temple, set in an indescribable magical atmosphere in the rain. The temple is perched in the mountains around Kyoto. Rain pulled shreds of grey stratofractus down into the valleys, while the tops of the mountains remained obscured. Since Kuomizu Temple perches above treetops, and the horizons disappeared into clouds, it looked as though the temple was floating over the forest.
Kiyomizu, founded in 778, is yet another UNESCO world heritage site in Kyoto. This famous Japanese temple is dedicated to the 11-headed and thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy. It is well known for its impressive wooden structure and for its waterfalls. Coming here from the Pacific Northwest, even I was struck by the *huge*
wooden columns and *huge* wooden timbers making up the temple’s architecture. During our visit, we were not able to go in, but we walked on the balconies surrounding it, and were able to look in and absorb its rich interior design and adornments.
Built on Otawa Mountain, Otawa falls is incorporated into the temple site, and split into three different streams. Drinking from a stream will give you luck in school, in love, or in long life, depending upon which stream you choose.
It was easy to see that this is a famous Japanese site because even on such a wet day, there were throngs of people. I am not a fan of crowds, so my eye is usually drawn to things off the beaten path. Wandering alone past stone lanterns on cobbled, mossy paths, and crossing trickling streams through luxurious dripping forests is a very good way to lose track of time and forget there is a bus waiting.
Eventually I tore myself away from the temple and back down the long narrow streets of vendors. I tried some cinnamon bean paste sweets – yum! – and bought grilled sweet potato on a stick, simply because I couldn’t resist the golden buttery smells. At the bottom of a long flight of stone steps I saw an historic street with more thatched roofs, but I had no time to investigate. Alas! The Bus Awaits.
Next we saw the most amazing sight! In the Sanjusangen-do Temple are 1000 life-sized golden statues, and one waaay larger-than-life statue of Kannon! They are all made of cypress, and date to the 12th and 13th centuries. In addition, there are 28 life-sized statues of guardian deities, plus the Thunder god and Wind god placed all around the Kannon statues.
The experience was enough to make me speechless. I cannot even explain how tremendous it is to see 1001 huge golden buddhist statues all housed together. We were cautioned many times not to take a photo, and were told that if caught, security would make us erase our images to their satisfaction. So I did not succumb to temptation, but provided you with someone else’s image.
Our last stop was Kyoto Station and mall, across from the Kyoto Tower. We were there to eat lunch. I was tempted by the 11th floor, which was entirely ramen noodle restaurants! But instead, I followed a tip from women at an information booth, who said I could get Internet at the Starbucks at the base of the Tower. I ran (safely) across the intersection and sent virtual kisses and hugs to my family, who had not heard from me in 3 days. Then we all settled in for the long journey back to base.