Since we only had 2 days in Kyoto* and Nara was a quick 30-minute ride away, we went back to Kyoto to see some things we missed while we were there. On the train ride there, we noticed that the chairs were all reversible. The seats are anchored, but the backs are on a hinge and you can easily move them from one side to the next to change the direction you are facing. Pretty nifty, huh?
Our first stop was Sanjusangendo, a temple featuring 1,001 statues of the Buddhist deity called "Kannon." She is the goddess of mercy and in Japanese culture features numerous arms. At this temple, each statue was 11 feet tall and had 25 intricately carved arms. Huge, complex, and gold, they were a truly spectacular sight. It turned out this temple had been just down the street from our hostel in Kyoto and we had walked by it a few times without ever realizing what was inside. It was nice, actually; because it was an unassuming temple, there were few tourists there.
There was one huge Kannon in the middle of the 1,000 others, as well as 28 guardian deities, such as the God of Thunder and the God of Wind. Those two were particularly imposing. Unfortunately we were forbidden from taking any photographs so here's one I stole from Google images.
Next, we went to the famed Golden Pavilion called "Kinkakuji" (not to be confused with Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion). It was exactly as it sounds: a large pavilion covered in gold leaf. Located in the middle of a small pond and surrounded by a garden, it was serene like many of the Japanese gardens. It was an incredibly hot and sunny day so we were moving slowly and weren't so keen on spending time outside. (We did take the opportunity to get a strange-flavored shaved ice though).
J was extremely excited to visit a samurai shop he read about in our guide book so we found it and had a look inside. They had some pretty seriously awesome armor, for the low price of $3,000-$4,000. They also had an assortment of real swords, garments, and other battle accoutrement. J picked up a t-shirt featuring his favorite samurai's insignia**.
We had dinner and then went in search of a good viewing spot for Daimon-ji Gozan Okuribi. This is a ceremony where they (I don't know who) light a Japanese character in fire on one of the hills. They do a few different characters at different times. We'd really been looking forward to it since we got to Kyoto, but apparently everyone else had too. It was incredibly crowded and uncharacteristically chaotic. We were just able to see it being lit and watched as the fire spread (but stayed within the confines of the character). Unfortunately it didn't photograph very well and we were being jostled around in the crowd so we left early and went back to Nara.
|Getting ready for the lighting.|
*When we went to book a hostel in Kyoto we could only find a reservation for 2 days, otherwise we would have spent another few days there.
**Yes, he has a favorite samurai. And yes, they do each have their own insignia.