Sorry! This is a picture-heavy post. I hope I don’t crash your computer!

Kansai Gaidai advertised that they were organizing an exploratory trip to Kyoto, so I did not hesitate to sign up. It would be great to explore outside the surrounding region and, as they were going to utilize public transportation, to familiarize myself, even a little bit, with the train system.

Groups of us were paired off with a few Kansai Gaidai students, who were going to take us to a specific famous temple in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-tera. My group included my roommate, the guy I sat next to on the plane, two French students, and three students who around 18 years old. They were coming into their first year at Kansai Gaidai, and have great hopes of learning English and studying abroad in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. We walked a ways from Kansai Gaidai in the blazing heat. It was hot throughout the entire day – sweat-dripping hot.

On the station platform I saw something amusing, and I took this picture:

IMG_2192 A red button for emergencies. ^_^ Don’t push the red button!

Presently, after a shorter train ride than I was expecting – about half an hour – we arrived in Kyoto. We stood in front of the entrance to the temple complex, which goes slowly up into the cleft of a forested mountain.

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When we entered, directly on the left was the fountain where one is supposed to wash before going on the temple complex.

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The proper procedure is to take the ladle and hold it under the stream of water (not to dip it into the pool) and wash one’s hands with the contents. Some places encourage washing out the mouth as well, but only if you want to.

IMG_2199Here’s what the courtyard looked like:

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On the left, with all the lanterns, is a building that looks a bit like a dojo of some sort.

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I took a video of the lanterns swinging in the breeze:

The actual temple (where people pray) is below. One tosses a coin into the coin boxes, then claps their hands twice, bows twice, and rings the bell, to gain the attention of the gods. Then they pray and some bow again. The long ropes in the picture are attached to the bells. They’re pretty difficult to ring!

 

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I’ve gotten questions before on why I would pray at a shrine, because I’m a Christian, and doesn’t that conflict with my beliefs? Here’s how I see it. I can pray to God at any time, in any place. I don’t know what gods these shrines are for. When I clap my hands and bow, I do it reverently to my God. When I ring the bell, I hope He hears me. When I pray silently, I know I’m heard. I’m not praying to an idol, nor do my actions make it so that I am. It’s nice to watch other people do it, but there’s nothing like actually doing it to make it real in your mind.

At these shrines, people can get fortunes that will be read, and if they hope it will come true, they can tie their fortunes onto poles or trees:

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This is a building that houses the portable shrines that, during festivals, people carry through the streets of Kyoto.

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A gorgeous pond glimpsed through the trees:

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Some lovely traditional houses and gates along an old road leading to the next temple, through an old quarter of Kyoto:

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Along with narrow alleys:

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A pretty pagoda we passed by while walking:

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The view while looking back:

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Then we finally reached it! Kiyomizu-dera, established in the 700s and built by Tokugawa Iemitsu in the 1600s.

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Here’s a traditional bell:

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Another water fountain for washing:

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A leafy lattice for shade:

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The stunning view from the temple:

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We washed our hands again here before entering the main part of the temple.

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Here’s a picture of one of the most famous sections of the Kiyomizu-dera

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You can see Kyoto in the background.

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These are wishes and prayers of those visiting the temple. The pictures on the front represent the year in which they were born on the Chinese calendar, I think.

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Next we went on to the Otawa Waterfall, or Otowa-no-taki. You could see it from the temple balcony above.

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There are three streams – one each for love, luck, and health. We could drink from one, or as many as we wanted. You can see that the pool is open for people to walk in and bathe in the waters.

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I was a bit dubious at first, considering that a whole bunch of people were drinking from the same ladles. It seemed to contradict the idea of drinking water to gain health. But I decided to do it anyway, because it was so interesting. The little stand you can see was selling “lucky cups” that you could fill with the water and take home with you. It turned out that the ladles were put into these slots with ultraviolet light, so that it killed all the germs. Anyway, I went for it.

The water was clean, cold, and stunningly refreshing. It tasted great.

We walked back to the station, then full of people going home from work, and rode back quietly. My roommate and I caught a bus back to Kansai Gaidai with help from one of the students. It was long walk from there back to the Seminar House, but all in all it was a worthwhile trip.

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