A Travellerspoint blog

Around Kiyomizudera

The Lost Jizos That Aren't Really Lost

sunny 68 °F

We took the bus to Kiyomizudera (Clear Water Temple) yesterday. Well, we took a bus to as close as a public bus can get to Kiyomizudera. The World Heritage Site Buddhist Temple is on a hill. The public bus stops at the bottom. The hearty walk up the hill, the not so hearty get a taxi to take them part way up, but from there must join the rabble and continue walking up the hill. The street where the vehicles are allowed access was like a parking lot. The upper part of the street, for pedestrians only, looked like this.DSCN6896.jpg But the crowd was in a good mood and the humongous number of people made for good people-watching.

Some were pilgrims. DSCN6893.jpg Others, although not pilgrims, were dressed in traditional garb. DSCN6897.jpgDSCN6860.jpg Others were wearing regular street clothes.DSCN6892.jpg And of course, there were the students, the boys wearing uniforms that look just like the ones my dad used to wear more than 90 years ago. DSCN0204.jpg

I'm sure that some of the people in traditional wear owned their clothes. But given the cost of kimonos and hakama, it's likely the vast majority did not. For example, consider these ladies: DSCN6877.jpg Japanese women? Nope, Chinese tourists. Turns out that there are several rental services that will dress you in traditional clothing.DSCN6924.jpg For $30-$50 they'll dress you and for $5 more even do your hair.

Strangely enough, we weren't headed for Kiyomizudera itself. Here's a photo of the main temple from a earlier trip: P1000989.jpg For more information on the temple, here's a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiyomizu-dera

Instead, we were looking for Jizos. Here's Wikipedia's discussion of Jizos in Japanese culture:

In Japan, Ksitigarbha, known as Jizō, or Ojizō-sama as he is respectfully known, is one of the most loved of all Japanese divinities. His statues are a common sight, especially by roadsides and in graveyards. Traditionally, he is seen as the guardian of children, and in particular, children who died before their parents. He has been worshipped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted foetuses, in the ritual of mizuko kuyō (水子供養, lit. offering to water children). In Japanese mythology, it is said that the souls of children who die before their parents are unable to cross the mythical Sanzu River on their way to the afterlife because they have not had the chance to accumulate enough good deeds and because they have made the parents suffer. It is believed that Jizō saves these souls from having to pile stones eternally on the bank of the river as penance, by hiding them from demons in his robe, and letting them hear mantras.[citation needed]

Jizō statues are sometimes accompanied by a little pile of stones and pebbles, put there by people in the hope that it would shorten the time children have to suffer in the underworld. (The act is derived from the tradition of building stupas as an act of merit-making.) The statues can sometimes be seen wearing tiny children's clothing or bibs, or with toys, put there by grieving parents to help their lost ones and hoping that Jizō would specially protect them. Sometimes the offerings are put there by parents to thank Ksitigarbha for saving their children from a serious illness. His features are commonly made more baby-like to resemble the children he protects.

As Ksitigarbha is seen as the saviour of souls who have to suffer in the underworld, his statues are common in cemeteries. He is also believed to be one of the protective deities of travellers, the dōsojin, and roadside statues of Jizō are a common sight in Japan. Firefighters are also believed to be under his protection.

Indeed, our blog is named "JIzo Diary" because Jizo protects travelers and our first Kyoto machiya was named "Jizo-An.

Turns out that as Kyoto has grown over the centuries, the many Jizos around town were displaced by new construction. Rather than destroy the Jizos, the powers that be evidently had them moved to the grounds of Kiyomizudera--thousands of them. We weren't able to find the majority of them, but we did find these.DSCN6873.jpgDSCN0206.jpgDSCN6889.jpgDSCN6890.jpg

The area around Kiyomizudera is also charming, with authentic traditional Japanese architecture. Consequently, many young couples come here to have their wedding photos done. DSCN6935.jpg We really enjoyed this young couple.DSCN6915.jpgDSCN6918.jpgDSCN6922.jpg

There was a very unusual shrine or temple (I think shrine, but I'm not sure) at the end of our walk: At many shrines, worshipers will write wishes on thin placards of wood or on paper and hang them from a board dedicated to that purpose. At this shrine, wishes were written on colored balls of fabric.DSCN6931.jpgDSCN6932.jpgDSCN6937.jpg

Posted by pokano 22:26 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Up Close & Personal View of the Japanese Health Care System

And a Big Parade


And we're off! Been in Japan for nearly three days now . . .

. . . and have already had the dubious pleasure of carting Pam off to a hospital to begin battle with a nasty infection. By mid evening she was feeling unwell, by the wee hours her condition had worsened, and by the early morning Saturday it had become clear that she required medical attention. It turns out that after-hours and weekend ERs or urgent care clinics are not common in Japan. The nearby University Medical School and Hospital discourages walk-ins unless a condition appears life-threatening. We contacted staff at our landlord's office; though initially they were about as much at sea as we were, they really rose to the occasion and, by about 9:30, had identified a suburban hospital open until noon. And we were off -- a twenty minute subway ride took us more or less door-to-door.

The Takeda Hospital reception desk was sort of taken aback by our arrival. This was not a hospital that catered to non-Japanese-speaking foreigners. (I was the only Caucasian we observed at the hospital.) Nobody on staff spoke English, so we coped by means of Pam's limited and rusty Japanese, charades, on-the-spot on-line research, a paper dictionary, etc. To the credit of the hospital, everyone we encountered was gracious, thoughtful, and patient towards the end of making sure that both they and we understood what was going on.IMG_20161022_112812.jpg Despite the seeming chaos of the packed hospital hallways, IMG_20161022_111550.jpgwe managed to get there, get in, get lab tests and an ultrasound, see a doc, get a prescription filled (at a next door pharmacy) and arrive home in under four hours. Total bill, including tests, doc, hospital, and prescription -- wait for it -- about $150! Followup already scheduled for next Saturday. We're now optimistic; stay tuned.

Our visit to Takeda Hospital in Kyoto's southeastern suburbs revealed what should have been obvious over our past several visits: Not all of Kyoto is chic, posh, sophisticated, fashionable or rich. Takeda served what was pretty clearly a working class community -- regular people, many aging, some disabled, wearing work pants, house dresses, and sporting little that speaks to the high falutin' hipster/fashionista/high culture image of Kyoto.

Pam's spirits have roller-coastered from high (we're back in Japan!) to miserably, sobbingly low, to hey, I'm probably gonna be alright, to . . . we're headed out for dinner shortly. The best news of the hospital shortened day? just as we returned from the hospital, sad that we'd lost a day so early in our trip, literally 150 feet from our little house was a mammoth four hour parade, the Jidai Matsuri, reflecting the history of Kyoto from the Meiji restoration era (1868) back to the beginning of the Heian period in 781. DSCN6674.jpgDSCN6683.jpgDSCN6692.jpgDSCN6729.jpgDSCN6740.jpgDSCN6762.jpg

Came home from the parade, napped, and did a bit of electronic housekeeping. Though I'm no Luddite, the degree to which charging various cameras/Kindles/phones, moving photos from camera and phone to computer and internet and email has become part of our travel routine, represents an enormous qualitative change in how we travel. And I'm only beginning to learn what all I can (or can't -- I haven't quite got the hang of answering calls yet, so wait till the callers give up, then return calls) do with my infernal new smartphone toy.

After all of the above, late this afternoon we headed out for an early dinner at an interesting looking udon restaurant I'd stumbled across on a neighborhood surveillance walk yesterday. We were not disappointed; yet another amazing serendipitous find. Easily the best nabeyaki udon we've ever had -- the broth was rich, complex yet light, the noodles, egg, shrimp, tofu, burdock root, greens, green onions, shiitake mushroom, yuba . . . prepared by a young couple meticulously focused on every element of taste and aesthetics in their small (counter seating only) restaurant. DSCN6770.jpg

Our third dinner; our third winner. What a day.

Posted by pokano 05:21 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

We're Finally Here!

Travelling--The Worst Thing About Travel

sunny -14 °F

It's almost 1:30 pm PDT Thursday,, but here it's close to 5:30 am on Friday, and I'm wide awake. So what better to do than work on our first blog post.

Here we are ensconced in our tiny machiya in Kyoto after a 2.5 hr flight to LAX, a nearly 12 hr flight to Narita, a few hours of shuteye at the Hilton Narita (picked for its free airport shuttle and the fact you can walk the entire way across the room and not run into anything, even your luggage), a 1 hr trip from the airport to Tokyo and then a 2.5 hour train ride to Kyoto, on which we ate our first eki ben (bento you buy in the train station or on the train to eat on the train).DSCN0186.jpgDSCN0187.jpg If only Star Trek were true--beam me up, Scotty, beam me to Kyoto--would be very nice. And that's even though the food and service on Singapore Air is pretty darn good, and I managed to sleep 4 or 5 hrs on the plane.

We know we're in Kyoto when we have our first ice cream cone in Kyoto Station--a waffle cone with matcha (green tea) ice cream, hojiicha (roasted green tea) ice cream, two snow white tapioca balls, and a big dollop of an (sweetened chunky azuki bean paste). We forgot to take a photo. Hopefully we'll rectify that in a few days.

We tried to reserve the same machiya, Shirakawa Cottage, we've been in previously. Tried last March! But it was already taken. Our landlords, however, had bought another one just a few blocks away, so we're in that one, Nodoka An, and happy to be so close to our old stomping grounds. As you can see from the photo, this place is in a very narrow lane. DSCN6594.jpg

We had a few hours to kill after arriving here before we could check into our machiya, so we decided to check out the museum in Kyoto Station. To digress, the major train stations in Japan are amazing--they can have hotels, major dept stores, a zillion restaurants and retailers. Much to our surprise and delight, the exhibit was the works of Kawaii Kanjiro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawai_Kanjir%C5%8D Our friend, Mieko san, took us to visit his house last year, here in Kyoto. He's primarily known as a potter, but we learned in this exhibit that he also drew/painted, made wood carvings, and wrote books. It was an amazing show, which thoughtfully included English translations on the placards, but we couldn't take photos. So here is a sampling of his work that was on display at his house.E75C53C9F0BE4E52C55C3925D01BA5C5.jpgDSCN0806.jpgE7750C01B3ADD8A36FD36494E829CDEF.jpg

So where did we have our first full meal in Japan? Why, at a contemporary Continental restaurant, of course! Really. Our friends Shingo san and Kouji san opened their restaurant 3 years ago, and we have been having meals there several times on our visits to Kyoto. The food is excellent and sometimes has a Japanese twist. Tonight we had, among other things, a small mushroom cheese pizza (yummy cheese), bonito sashimi mixed with avocado and tomato, an assortment of bruschetta, a Sicilian green salad (with high quality canned tuna!), and a Spanish shrimp dish with the shrimp dipped in hot garlic oil, but more amazingly, accompanied by deep fried (no breading) shrimp shells. Really. They were delicious. Like shrimp flavored potato chips. I'd have them again in a heart beat.

Anyway Kouji san and Shingo san didn't know we were coming, so when we walked in the door, they were surprised! Kouji san later on in the evening posted this photo from a year ago on his Facebook page.DSCN0751.jpg

In a few hours we'll have breakfast at the French bakery (virtually impossible to get a real Japanese breakfast in a restaurant that isn't in a hotel) and then I'll go to one of our neighborhood okashi (sweets) places to buy Japanese sweets. It will probably take us another day or two to get into the swing of things. There's a big festival here over the weekend, with the parade going right through our neighborhood, so we hope to see that.

Posted by pokano 14:27 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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