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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Two Temples Kyoto

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JULY. 15, 2020

I first went to Japan in 2006 and briefly visited Tokyo and Kyoto. The following photos were taken at two temple sites in Kyoto.

Chishakuin Temple Complex. Having gone to see the nearby 1001 Buddha statues at Sanjusangendo we found a huge queue to get in. My motto being never queue, we noticed on the map there were other places of interest nearby so we thought we would try those instead. Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves the only visitors to Chishakuin where we had a painting gallery, house and garden all to ourselves.

Kyoto's Chishakuin Temple is best known for its panel paintings and its gardens. It was originally built at Koyasan in Wakayama, which is far south of Kyoto, in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's son Sutemaru, who died at age three. The buildings were brought here in 1598 on the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The main garden of Chishakuin Temple was rebuilt in 1674 but later destroyed by fire. The garden was inspired by the area around Mt. Rozan, in China and is centered around a pond which extends under the temple.

Chishakuin's garden, which may be the work of Momoyama Period tea master Sen-no-Rikyu (1522-1591) is known for its azaleas which bloom in late April and early May. Within the temple, Pine Trees and Flowering Plants, Cherry and Maple Trees, Pine and Plum Trees are in particular magnificent.

Fujinomori Jinja Shrine. This shrine was a bit of a trek as it was some way out of the main part of the city and we had to get a train which proved a challenge as we speak no Japanese. What we didn't realise though was that the Roman alphabet is only on signs in the centre of the city which was really useful in recognising Japanese place names stations etc. but when we got to the station out of town for our return journey we realised there were no signs we could actually read. Someone took pity on us though and made sure we got on the correct train to get back to the city. We found all through our trip there was always someone nearby eager to help. It was a great adventure.

I do remember that for us the weather was incredibly humid when it wasn't actually raining. We got absolutely soaked both by rain and the humidity. So our whole trip was being soaked one minute and going into ice cold bars the next where we shivered while the air con dried us out, only to venture back outside again when we were soon soaked again.

After visiting this shrine we wanted something to eat and there was a tiny restaurant near the station with just seats at a bar. I opened the door and half walked in only to discover there was no air con. I started to back out saying no air con to my friend only to be waved back in by the lady inside who quickly repeated several times air con, air con, and demonstrated that she was switching it on for us. She seated us right next to the air con and we were treated like royalty. We had no idea what we ate because there were no menus so we just watched while they cooked several courses in front of us, all of which tasted fantastic. To this day we have no idea what most of the food we ate in Japan actually was, but there wasn't a single thing we didn't enjoy.

The man I took to be her husband occasionally tried to engage us in conversation using sign language and single English words. He established we were from England whereupon he announced "Futtebal" while making a kicking a ball motion, followed by "Bekkam" which we nodded to, showing we understood he was a big fan of David Beckham the English footballer. A really memorable experience. When full of food and also dry we ventured back out into the rain and got soaked again.

But as the late great comic Ronnie Corbett used to say after a bit of a ramble "but I digress". Back to the shrine.

Located in southern Kyoto, Fujinomori Shrine is said to have been founded by Emperor Jingu even before Kyoto became the capital in the 700s. The origin of Children’s Day was born at Fujinomori Shrine, and today it is known for answering prayers in relation to victory, studies, and horse racing. This shrine has a history of connections to the imperial family, and in the grounds there is a sprawling hydrangea garden lovely in June. Which was why this was on our list. Of course, hydrangeas, as the name indicates, love getting soaked.


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