Friday, July 16, 2010

Kimomizu Dera pt 2 - There's Love in that thar Water

27th October, 2006 - There's a lot more to Kiyomizu Dera than my previous post. It's actually a huge complex of Buddhist and Shinto temples, shrines and even a cemetary where the monk Shinran is buried (the originator of the Jōdo Shinshū Buddhist sect). Above the temple complex sits Jishu-Jinja, a Shinto shrine now famous for vistors seeking true love. It was common to have Buddhist and Shinto places of worship co-existing together - a symbiotic relationship that came to an end during the Meiji Restoration. As with many of the Shinto temples, it is the home of several gods... indeed the mysterious god Susa-no-o supposedly has a home here as well - one time rival to Gods of Yamato. However, he is more closely associated with the Izumo region... so this might be his holiday house?

One of the more famous stories of the shrine is that to find true love you should walk (with eyes closed) between two stones (some 60 foot apart) whilst saying the name of the one you feel is your true love. Should you reach the other stone un-aided, then your love will be strong and true. Look around for the statue of "Okuninishino Mikoto"... the Japanese God of love... where you'll find the matching half of the "love stones". 

One of the somewhat folorn sights of the shrine is a large barrel of water, in which is slowly dissolving the paper on which is written the many hopes and dreams for love of those that come to Jishu-jinja. In some ways  it seems as if all those dreams are but transient whispers, lost to the waters of time... in other ways it's as if the Cosmos were adsorbing the words to become part of a greater thing.... I'm not sure what comes of the water. Perhaps it's best not to know, as romantic notions are so much easier to hold on to if the truth doesn't interupt.

And for those for whom the love stones don't quite work (or who need extra special help) there's no end of tokens to assist the truly love lost.

Moving back down to the Amida-do (where the Amida Buddha sits in golden radiance), you can continue around the mountain - till you eventually come to another three storied pagoda, Koyasu-no-tō, which is said hold the Goddess responsible for easy births. This was a sort of must see... given the somewhat growing state of T-chan's belly. This one looks as if it's seen better days.
Unfortunately when we arrived it looked very much closed... Hmmm... hopefully this wasn't an omen.

Somewhat disappointed, we made our way back to the temple proper. Below the temple proper sits Otowa no Taki (“sound of feathers waterfall”), the original source of Enchin’s pure water. Even today, visitors to the temple will queue to taste of the purifying water of Kiyomizu Dera. Ok... when you think of waterfalls, I'm sure that you conjure up something a little "grander" in your mind. Clearly there's something else to this waterfall that's sparks the imagination of all those dedicated visitors.

There's a lot of steps down... but then again - going down is the easy part.

Below - there's no doubt about what the attraction is. Sampling of the healing waters of  Otowa no Taki. It must be good. Or alcoholic. So huge are the queues that T-chan and I decided to give it a miss. We don't have the time, and T-chan's not feeling the best nowadays. Also - there's something decidedly un-hygienic about communal cups. Especially on the mass scale that's evident here. There are three streams, carefully directed, from which to choose from...

Supposedly if one stream is good... more is better... however, sample from all three and your greed will rebound upon you.
Now don't forget to throw in some coins to satisfy Fudo Myo-o, the God of the waterfall. Apparently he doesn't take too well to evil-doers, and the definition of evil-doer always seemed just a little too vague for my own liking.

Moving on from the waterfall, you can enjoy the gorgeous stonework of the temple grounds.

From below the temple's platform looks even more amazing. All of this is made without modern things such as nails, bolts, rivets. All held together by gravity, friction and good design. Of course it's also designed to flex and move. That's more or less a pre-requisite in Japan, home of the earthquake.

Back to where we started. It's definitely a good place to go in Kyōto. In some ways, it's not as impressive to my own view as the gardens of many of the other temples we've been to... and the crowds certainly make you feel like you're in a tourist attraction rather than a place of inner-tranquility. The real advantage to Kiyomizu Dera is that it's a good staging place for a lot of other things. For that reason, if you've only got a short time in Kyōto, it's more or less a must see.

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1 comment:

  1. That is quite an impressive waterfall. *cough cough*

    I'm sure it must have magical healing powers. However, I'd recommend coming to Niagara Falls if you want to experience some real falls action. =)