Aug 28, 2014

Day Trip to Kozan-ji and Jingo-ji

Looking back on the trip to Kyoto, my fondest memory is the day spent in Ukyo-ku visiting the temples Kozan-ji and Jinjo-ji.

What brought us to Kozan-ji was the choju-jinbutsu-giga, a series of ink scrolls from the 12th century that depict frogs, rabbits, and other animals as people; having fights, wearing monk's robes, and conducting ceremonies.

I'd been very excited to point out how I'd studied the scrolls for a Japanese art history class at university, and the opportunity to see them with my own eyes was worth the hour's trip outside of Kyoto. Now, doing research for this blog post, I've discovered they are reproductions, with the originals safely harbored at the Tokyo and Kyoto National Museums.

I am even more grateful then, for not knowing, and taking the trip so I could see those reproductions and walk the peaceful grounds of Kozan-ji, feeling the deep hum of silence of the old forest temple.


Reflecting at Kozan-ji.

Buddha stands in your footprints.

Once we had walked the entire grounds, we took the bus to a turn in the road where a curry restaurant stood beside an open yawning mouth of downward stairs. There was no temple to be seen at the stop, though our guidebook reference said there was so. The old lady at the curry restaurant assured us of what we'd guessed: the temple lay at the end of the path leading down that throat of stairs.

At some point during the trek I realized there would probably be no "exit" path from the temple except the way we were coming. I felt tired thinking of having to walk all the way back again. I downed two bottles of water on the way, marching down the clunky stone steps while little lizards darted into cracks between them.

There was a bridge over the beautiful Kiyotaki stream with lanterns strung along the bank. Little closed shops had names that referred to autumn foliage. I've no doubt it's breathlessly beautiful here during autumn. It must bring in a lot of seasonal tourists. For now, in high summer, we trudged along in the sun alone.

After the bridge, the steps change direction from downhill to uphill. Once we finally made it to the top, the larger-than-life rōmon (tower gate) welcomed us through to Jingo-ji, another Shingon Buddhist temple founded by Kukai.

Here we admired the old architecture and prayed to the ancient-looking statues. At a cliff edge, a little one-woman shop sold tiny clay dishes that granted you a wish when you threw them into the valley below.
Making a wish at Jingo-ji.

(A few of) the steps of Jingo-ji.

When it came time to take the stairs back to the river and up again, wasn't as tiring as I'd thought. The curry restaurant was waiting at the end of the journey, with a hot meal to replenish our strength. We finished eating just in time for the next bus. It bore us back to Kyoto as I fell asleep, just like on the train back to Nanao the next morning.


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