My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Temple - buildings and etiquette.

    Temples are another of the great complexes I enjoy visiting when out on my travels. And, like the Shrines and Castles, their magnificence and history sometimes leaves me quite-speechless (that's not saying much for my English language skills). In Japan, Temples are places of worship of Japanese Buddhism, with the history of it's introduction dating-back to the late 6th-century, when Crown Prince Shotoku (574 - 622)  introduced Buddhism to Japan. Horyu-ji Temple , the home of Buddhism in Japan, was commissioned by the Crown Prince and was completed in 607AD (my "Everytrail Guide" ).
   For the purposes of this post, I have chosen Yokoku-ji Temple (constructed around 806AD), in the city of Nagaokakyo. From 784 - 794, Nagaoka-kyo was the capitol of Japan. Yokoku-ji, also known as Yanagidani Kannon, is nestled amongst the hills overlooking Nagaokakyo and other parts of Kyoto. And, during the Autumn season, the colors here are truly magnificent with the leaves ranging in color from red and yellow. Also, from June-to-July, the 4,500 or so Hydrangea Plants will be in bloom. It is a very isolated complex (my kinda place) but can be quite busy with people visiting the Temple to savour the very clear spring-water known as Okozui, which Kukai, a famous Monk during the early Heian Period, prayed for by force of will.
   You have arrived at a Temple and, regardless if you are here to pray or visit, you are expected to behave calmly and respectfully. The taking of photos within the complex grounds is usually permitted but, as in the case at some Temples, it is forbidden. If this is the case, there will be signs warning you not to take photos.
The first building you will encounter, will be the gate which marks the entrance to the Temple complex. There is usually the one main gate, but some Temples will have several additional gates along the Temples main approach.
 As you pass-through onto the complex grounds, you will notice a Chozuya, or Purification Trough. It is important to purify yourself before you go to pray. To do this you take one of the ladles and, holding it in your right hand, rinse your left hand. You then repeat this process holding the ladle in your left hand. Next you rinse your mouth before spitting the water into the trough on the ground.

As you approach the main hall you will notice the Incense Burner in front of the building. The smoke from burning Incense (Osenko) is believed to have certain healing powers - if you have an injured shoulder, for example, fanning the smoke from burning incense is believed to provide relief. To participate in this ritual, you purchase a bundle of incense, light them, let them burn for a few seconds before extinguishing the flame. You do this by waving your hand rather than by blowing them out.

You may now approach the Main Hall to pray. Before you commence with your prayer, toss a coin into the offering box first. This is a mark of respect towards the sacred object.
If you intend to enter the Main Hall it is important you remove your shoes beforehand. In some cases a shoe-box will be available, in others you may be handed a plastic-bag for you to take your shoes with you. Also wear nice socks. Main Halls are called Kondo, Hondo, Butsuden, Amidado or Hatto in Japanese. Now lets take a look at some of the other buildings that make up the temple complex.
This is the Lecture Hall, or Kodo in Japanese, and are used for meetings and lectures, plus objects of worship will be on display here. 
The building, in the photo on the right, is situated next to the Kodo. Here you can purchase incense, used in your prayer ritual, plus Omikuji (paper fortune-telling slips) and other assorted religious icons. 
Your Omikuju are randomly drawn and contain predictions ranging from Daikichi (great good luck) to Daikyo (great bad luck).  
The building, in the photo on the right, is used as a rest area or waiting room. Sometimes, if the weather is inclement, people can wait in here, have a bite-to-eat before moving-on.  

The next building to cover is one of my favourites. The Bell. At midnight on December 31st, Buddhist Temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108-times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen. 
Now for the Piece de Resistance - the Pagoda. This structure has evolved from the Indian Stupa and usually comes in three (Sanju no to) and five (Goju no to) stories and are used to store the remains of the Buddha, such as a tooth, usually in form of a representation. Unfortunately Yokoku-ji Temple didn't have a Pagoda, so I shall show you two famous Pagodas - the one at Gansen-ji Temple in Kyoto Prefecture, and the one at Kaijusen-ji Temple also in Kyoto  Prefecture.
The three-storied pagoda at Gansen-ji Temple sits amongst the lush greenery and hydrangeas that make this sight quite spectacular. On the other-hand, the five-storied pagoda at Kaijusen-ji Temple (my  "Everytrail" trip), offers magnificent views over the Kamo Town plains. The pagoda is classified as a "National treasure"  and is considered to be over 1,300-years old.

   Well, before signing-off, I will leave you with more images from my visit to Yokoku-ji Temple.
   As you approach the Temple, along Route-79, you pass this avenue of concrete lanterns. 
   Within the complex 

grounds there are many buildings allowing the devotees to pray at. Also, throughout the grounds, one will come-across some vermilion-colored Torii. Yokoku-ji Temple isn't a large complex in comparison to some but, the isolation, serenity, picturesqueness and the ability to wander-around the hills that surround the Temple, make this a "must see" when you visit Kyoto.

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