We woke up yesterday to a sunny day, low humidity, and no plans for the day. I probably have as many books about Japanese/Kyoto travel as any self respecting hotel concierge. It took little time for my husband and me to settle on a destination that was doable for a day. We chose the ancient Enryakuji temple, at the summit of Mt. Hiei.
Our Japanese friends consider us adventurous, or so they tell us. I think compared to the average tourist, we head out on our own, without a lot of drama. Last year, when we rented a car for a road trip, they all just thought we were nuts. Continue reading “Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?”→
I can easily be distracted by visual displays of color and pattern. I relate to infants watching a mobile; their eyes are bright with excitement and their chubby little legs kick with glee. If I were a bird, I’d be right after the mate with the most colorful and hypnotic plumage.
So I guess I was ready made for Japan. On my first visit there I was immediately attracted to…..almost everything. So much eye candy (for lack of a better description). I was fascinated by it all. Pity anyone who was with me. They were required to move VERY s l o w l y, so as to savor and attempt to consume it all as I pointed out each thing that caught my eye, foolishly hoping my companion would get the same jolt I did. I clearly did not trust their own abilities.
visual images that are superficially attractive and entertaining but intellectually undemanding.
“the film’s success rested on a promotional campaign showcasing its relentless eye candy”
In our culture, the term eye candy seems mostly used to define a buxom, brainless young woman. For me, it means something visual that I can take pleasure from.
Think of the current superbloom of wildflowers in California. Possibly, a once in a lifetime treat. If this isn’t eye candy, what is?? Add to these floral enticements the staggering beauty and gasp- inducing wonder of a mature Japanese cherry tree in blossom, probably made more magical by its ephemeral nature. Certainly more bittersweet.
The diversity, power and beauty of Japanese ceramics and its long tradition make this art form one to be savored.
In the course of writing this blog, I realize that most of what I consider eye candy in the West, is found in nature. In Japan, it can be man-made and intentional as well as natural. The Japanese seem to have an innate artistic sensibility that can raise my heartbeat. What is the magic formula that allows this ability?
I have thousands of photos of things that inspire me when I’m in Japan. I’ve shared just a small slice of them to give you a sense of my encounters! I imagine on an Eye Candy Sensitivity Chart, I might be off the chart. Don’t know. What is clear is that these visual delights bring me great pleasure.
Sometimes, I wonder how many more years I’ll be able to make this trek. Unknowable. But, for now, I’m gearing up for another round, leaving this world on May 1!
After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again. I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.
At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.
On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain. It even had a route #!
Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area. The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color. The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.
Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over. We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive. Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so! Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field. We’ve lost so much of the natural world.
The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.
Since I learned to drive, I’ve always had the urge to explore places off the beaten path. I love to follow an unknown road deep into the countryside. The same impulse still resides in me today. Yesterday, it took me and my husband on a wonderful detour just on the city’s edge.
Following a recommendation in the Kyoto Visitor’s Guide, we set out for the Oharano Shrine which is known to have maple trees that explode with fiery color in the fall. Unfortunately, we were about a week too early to see the color as described, so we moved through the shrine rather quickly. Pausing for tea in a small café, the owner knew a little English, just as I know a little Japanese. We both enjoyed ourselves patching a conversation together that each mostly understood, or pretended to, if we didn’t. The fruit hanging in the background is kaki (persimmons) going through the traditional process of drying, out-of-doors in the shade of eaves.
My instincts told me there was more to see beyond the shrine. We followed a steep pathway, towards a promised temple we knew nothing about.
It was a haul for me, but after a quarter mile of huffing and puffing, we arrived at the ancient temple, Shojiji. Danny led the way.
There were only one or two other visitors on the grounds. I felt like I was in a fairy tale setting. The beauty of the stones, buildings and grounds were enriched by the eager plant life, which had taken over in places , encouraged by meandering streams. Certain areas were almost hidden by the lush gloom, adding to the solemnity and mystery.
The history of Shoji-ji temple predates that of Kyoto itself. Founded in the year 686, it is known for its feeling of remoteness, as well as the hundreds of cherry and maple trees in the gardens, which are a photographer’s delight in both spring and autumn. Bonson Lam, Japan travel
Shojiji wears her age well and proudly. There are no attempts to hide her age. Nature is allowed to encroach but hasn’t taken over. The temple’s worn features are dignified and strong. She played an important role in early Kyoto history that is still respected. Yesterday, I became a fan.
Today, visiting my umpteenth Kyoto temple ( this time, Shoren-in )I thought how each time I reconnect with the places, things and people I love here, it’s like meeting an old friend after a long absence. You can’t explain its satisfaction and happiness, but you sure know it and feel it.
The delicate maple leaves in the temple gardens are certainly familiar as is the smile on a loved one’s face or the twinkle in their eye. The junction of wall and roofing always pleases too, not to mention the koi in the ponds, the stones, the quiet, the moss, the flowers, the mysteries hidden in the darkened sanctuaries. How wonderful to be reunited!
People often ask me, how many times have you come here? I truly don’t know, I stopped counting years ago. It’s irrelevant anyway. There’s always a First Time feeling to each visit. I revere the integration of Nature in daily life. The physical buildings of temples, generally hundreds of years old, are such a part of each temple landscape, looking as if they might have emerged from the earth itself. The carefully constructed gardens are often sublime. It’s easy to feel a part of them as they have become a part of me. As loved ones influence and mark our lives, so does this place for me.