Monday, October 19, 2015

City of Gems

Wash your hands. Cleanse your mouth. 
Kyoto really is one of my favourite cities in the world. When you first arrive there, it looks like other Japanese cities. It is relatively low rise, with tight streets and fairly nondescript buildings. But Kyoto is a fabulous place to discover with a bugs eye view. It is best seen close up and intimately. The details of doorways, the tiny temples and shrines, the winding streets and waterways. And mostly it is fun to explore the ring of amazing temples and shrines that are on the edge of the hills, encircling the city. I feel like you could discover new precincts on every visit. There are some really famous and stunning destination shrines and temples; Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera, Saihoji, Tenruji. But to be honest, my favourites have always been the lesser know and almost unvisited places that you stumble upon. Kyoto is full of these stunning and yet largely overlooked gems.

This time we did make the effort to pre-book the famous Kokedera or Saihoji, The Moss Garden. The last time Chris and I tried to see it, the place was closed for something like 20 years so the moss could recover. So this time, prompted by our co-travellers, we decided to try again. In order to make the booking, you need to send a self addressed post card with a Japanese return address to the monks, requesting permission to visit. In order to ensure that our letter had been received and booking secured, I phoned Saihoji from Canada, twice. I think they may have granted us permission so that I would stop calling and harassing them in my less than perfect Japanese. So the four of us, and about 50 others arrived at 10 am, chanted sutras, wrote our prayers and then were allowed to walk in the garden. It was lovely, the moss seemed to have recovered. I captured a quick drawing in the rest area near the exit.

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