Kyoto // Temple Grove

Kyoto was the capital of Japan. It remained that way under the shogun rule until the power returned to the emperor and they moved the capital to Edo–now Tokyo.  To me, it sounds funny because the Japanese were probably wondering what to name their new capital… And they totally decided to invert the two syllables. Creative, but catchy.  (¬‿¬ )

Going to Kyoto from Osaka took a few hours. Luckily our hotel was right across the train station, so traveling to get our stuff was a breeze. Our Kyoto walk took us only an entire day though. We only explored  Arashiyama and Gion District, so that was enough before we left for Tokyo.

We had a very holy morning. Our itinerary consisted of temples, and a long, long walk towards nothing but bamboos. But Kyoto always holds a special place in my memories, because it’s where I experienced my first snowfall! The snow was pretty mild, but my tropical ass was stoked to have tiny flakes on my jacket. The only regret I ever had was not purchasing a basic lens filter to protect my lens… And the snow permanently got stuck on my lens :<). But otherwise, my first winter experience was surreal!

Tenryu-ji

We first stopped at Tenryu-Ji. It’s one of the major temples in Japan. UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site in 1994, and I understood why. This is the holy ground for Rinzai Zen, a sect of Japanese buddhism. Then-shogun Ashikaga Takauji built it to “appease [Emperor Go-Daigo’s] spirit” as the former tried to take over the country under his rule.

The area used to have a lot of temples. But as time passed, fires and wars burned these buildings to the ground.

What truly stood the test of time, apart from the buildings in my photos, is the garden.

Nonomiya Shrine

Now Nonomiya Shrine is just right behind Tenryu-ji so looking for it was pretty easy. Also, as if the huge sign saying “Nonomiya” in the alphabet isn’t enough.

Nonomiya Shrine is dedicated to marriage. Unmarried female royalties of the past would travel here for their “purification”. Whatever that means and what happens when it’s done.. my imagination gets wild thinking about it.

The entire shrine was in vivid red. It’s quite a sight, tbh. It contrasts with the greenery surrounding it.

Bamboo Grove

Although we walked around 2 temples, it was the Bamboo Grove where I felt so much zen.

It is accurate when my cousin’s wife said that this area is nothing but bamboos. “Magsasawa ka sa bamboo!” (“You’ll get tired of the bamboos!”) But maybe because this city girl wants to see more green than I usually do in the concrete Manila jungle, right? Also the feeling that you’re like, in a setting that’s similar to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon is amazing!

Looking at all the bamboos, the amount of green surrounding me was astounding. TBH, pre-editing these photos, the grove was pretty much a pale green since it was winter. Thanks to Lightroom adjustments, the place looked like something out of a fantasy story.

The funny thing is that, apparently there’s even a lower ground than the grove we were walking on. There’s a bunch of fancy stairs down the grove at some point. First instinct: damn that’s such a good looking set of stairs! But we saw the sign with an illustration of a bear… Second instinct: Today is not the day I star in my own horror movie. We had to go to Gion District, then Tokyo, thus we still want to live.

And here’s a couple of tourist-y shots that were just necessary just because.

Apart from the snow, it also rained that day. Props to all of us for having umbrellas and checking our weather apps beforehand.

We passed along a graveyard on our way out. They had icons of Buddha the same way we have saints in the graveyards back home. What fascinated me more is the vertically-written names of the deceased. It was then I remembered kana / kanji is meant to be written right to left, top to bottom.

A Spiritual Experience

It took us until 11 AM to get out of the Bamboo Grove area to have our lunch at the Arashiyama area. Going to Tenryu-ji, Nonomiya, and the Bamboo Grove was the meditation part of my Kyoto walk. The rest of it is mostly a cultural experience, where I got to experience old Japan. There’s more photos to come and more stories to share!

Have you visited a Buddhist temple before? What was the feeling like?

Head over to TenryuJi.com or Nonomiya.com for further details such as access maps, events, and much more.

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