After a delightful round of baked lemon tarts at Hiroshima station we got on board the Kodama – the slowest of the bullet trains. And we felt impatient with the comparatively “slow’ speed of this bullet train! – I suppose this is what is meant by raising customer expectations. When you get used to the Nozomi, the Kodama relatively moves at an annoying snails pace! At the next stop at Okoyama we changed to the faster Sakura train and got back to our hotel at Shin Osaka.
The next day, as was our routine, we had a late start and headed towards Kyoto. We still had one temple to visit and also the Gion Corner. We took a bullet train to Kyoto and twenty minutes later we were outside the station. Well organized tourist guides put us on the bus to the temple of Kiyumizodera. The bus stand of Gozo Zaka is a short distance away from the temple and we joined the flow of pedestrians all headed to the temple. A pleasant walk through the steep and busy lanes of Higashiyama district, stopping by at every local shop, and we were at the entrance to the Kiyomizudera.
Kiyomizudera or “Pure Water Temple” is one of the oldest Buddhist shrines in Japan and was one of the two temples we chose to visit in Kyoto. It is located at the site of the Otawa waterfall which is now at the base of the temple. We visited the temple in mid November as the autumn colours were emerging. The forest of maple and cherry trees around the temple is a beautiful not to be missed sight with trees painted in different colours of the autumn season. I understand from the locals that during the cherry blossom season it is an even more eye catching sight.
A walk up the steps took us to the entrance gate of the temple from where we reached the three storeyed pagoda.
Of interest to us was the tour through the womb of Zuigu Bosatsu or the womb of mother Buddha. As one walks through a narrow pitch dark passage in the basement, believed to symbolise the womb, you reach a glowing stone where one can make a wish upon a prayer. Pitch darkness represents detachment from the world as one is expected to be devoid of all attachment when making the wish. The walk was a bit scary initially but I got used to the black nothingness fairly quickly. A small donation is expected and we were handed over this card. We used google translate to decipher this document and it was an enjoyable exercise in translation. Do try it!
We skipped the nearby Jishu Jinja shrine dedicated the god of matchmaking and made our way to the Otawa waterfall which is really nothing more than a fountain. There are three streams – drinking from which affords longevity, education and a happy married life. It is believed that one can not have all three and is considered bad manners to drink from all three branches. And then we made our way back to the base of the hill through a cobbled path lined with traditional shops selling Japanese pottery, kimonos for hire and other local curios but not before sampling the cheese ice cream. A refreshingly different flavour from the normal ice creams that one has across the world.
From the temple we headed towards Gion -the geisha town of Kyoto and one of the well frequented tourist districts of Kyoto which was to be our last stop in Kyoto before we returned to Tokyo the next day.
Continued in my next Post Gion corner.