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DAY 4 (4/6): KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

Visiting Nara and Kyoto in Japan, where historical temples and old timber houses mushroomed across the landscape and lined along the alleyways of the ancient capitals, is a close encounter with what we consider as the heritage of Japan.   A brief visit to Kofukuji on our way out of Nara Park provided a proper closure to a fruitful day of cultural heritage when we had already seen Horyuji, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha.  A prominent representation of the Nara Period (AD 710-794), the Buddhist temple had seen better days in history, primarily during Nara Period and Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185), when Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha controlled much of the politics and religion of the kingdom.  Since, Kofukuji had gone through a gradual decline.  The anti-Buddhist policies of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) gave the temple its final blow, when Kofukuji was forced to be separated from Kasuga Taisha, such that Shintoism could be separated from Buddhism.

Kofukuji is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism in Japan.  Hosso, known as Yogachara in Indian Buddhism, is the school of Buddhism focused on meditative and yogic practice and believed that human experience is primarily constructed by the power of the mind.  This school of philosophy was founded by the famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang (玄奘), who visited India in the 7th century for Buddhist teachings and scriptures.  Some of Xuanzang’s pupils were later responsible to bring the teachings of Buddhism to Korea and Japan.  As the headquarters of Hosso, Kofukuji was once a large temple complex comprised of 175 buildings.  Today, only a few of the original architecture remained.  While we were there, the Central Golden Hall was under renovation and covered with scaffolding.  We could still, however, admired the ancient architecture of Kofukuji Temple, including the Octagonal Halls, Eastern Golden Hall and the iconic Five-storey Pagoda.

dsc_3563We passed by the iconic Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) on our way out of the Nara Park.

02At 50m, Kofukuji’s Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) is Japan’s second tallest, and an iconic symbol of the city of Nara.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful Eastern Golden Hall (東金堂) houses a large wooden statue of Yakushi Buddha.

dsc_3576Overview of the Eastern Golden Hall and Five-storey Pagoda.

03Founded in AD 813 and reconstructed in 1789, the Nanendo (南円堂, Southern Octagonal Hall) is another beautiful piece of architecture.

04List of donor’s names near the Nanendo (South Octagonal Hall)

05The stair down to Sanjo Dori Street was lined with donor’s flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA path off the stair led us to a platform where a cluster of small Buddhist shrines stood under a few maple trees.

08A beautiful statue stood out from the cluster of shrines.

06Reconstructed in AD 1181, the Three-storey Pagoda (三重の塔) is one of the two oldest surviving buildings at the temple complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nanendo viewed from the Three-storey Pagoda.

10Nakatanidou (中谷堂) at Sanjo Dori near Kofukuji is famous for its traditional fast mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounding known as mochitsuki.

11Yomogi mochi at Nakatanidou (中谷堂) are made with a wild Japanese plant called mugwort.  These rice cakes were really tasty.

12After a long day of temple hoping, we stopped by the relaxing Mellow Cafe for a quick bite.  The cafe is famous for its stone pizza oven.  We ordered a pizza with top with cheese and Japanese pickles.

13And washed the pizza down with a glass of local beer…

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DAY 4 (1/6): HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

Our day excursion to Nara (奈良) started before dawn.  We get up at 5am in the morning, and took a 6:15am Nara-bound JR train from Kyoto Station.  Our plan was to make a transfer from Nara JR Station to Horyuji Station (法隆寺駅) and visit Horyuji Temple (法隆寺) in suburban Nara, then returned to Central Nara and spent the rest of the day to check out the Nara Park attractions including Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha.

Founded in AD 607 during the Asuka Period (飛鳥時代), Horyuji (法隆寺) is one of the oldest temples in Japan.  In this UNESCO World Heritage site, the Five-storey Pagoda is widely believed to be the oldest timber structure in the world.  The architecture itself was largely influenced by the styles of Korea and China.  The large temple ground is divided into two main precincts, the Western Precinct (西院伽藍) where the ancient pagoda and Kondo (金堂, Sanctuary Hall) are located, and at 122m further east the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍), where the octagonal Yumedono (夢殿, Hall of Visions) is situated.

23From Horyuji Station, it was a 20 minute walk via an ordinary suburban road to the Horyuji Temple.  The setting changed dramatically as we turned into the tree-lined approach route in front of the temple entrance.

01As we approached the entrance, the staff were sweeping the forecourt of Nandaimon (南大門, South Gate) under the yellow morning sun.

dsc_2933After Nandaimon, the stone path led us towards the Chumon (中門, Middle Gate), which was unfortunately covered with scaffolding.

dsc_2936_01On our approach to the Chumon (中門, Middle Gate) we passed by the peaceful stone route leading towards the Todaimon (東門, East Gate).

02Beyond the scaffolding of Chumon (中門, Middle Gate) we entered the temple courtyard and the magnificent timber colonnade surrounding the yard.

03The beautiful timber Cloister (回廊) was constructed in the Nara Period (AD710 – 794).  It was relaxing and peaceful to walk along these ancient timber columns.

dsc_2954The 32m Five-Storey Pagoda is one of the oldest timber buildings in the world.  Tree ring dating suggested the central pillar was fell in AD 594.  Despite named as Five-Storey Pagoda, there is actually only one usable level (the bottom level).  The upper levels were inaccessible.

04The 7th century Kondo (金堂) is another one of the oldest wooden architecture in the world.  The building houses a number of precious Buddhist statues and murals.  Unfortunately much of the original murals were destroyed by fire in 1949.  The murals in the today’s Kondo are reproductions from 1967.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe dragon ornament at the upper section of the Kondo is a magnificent piece of handcraft.

07The Kondo (left), Five Storey Pagoda (right), and Chumon (centre with scaffolding) are three of the oldest buildings in the compound built in Asuka Period (飛鳥時代).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked to the back of the Kondo and Five-Storey Pagoda to reach the Daikodo (大講堂, Lecture Hall).

09Built in AD920 during the Heian Period (平安時代), the Daikodo houses the Yakushi Trinity in gilt wood.

10After some time wandering in the cloister of Western Precinct, a large group of school students showed up.

11Eastern Chambers (東室) from the Nara Period (奈良時代) was the former residences for monks.

12Walking through the Todaimon (東門, East Gate), we left the Western Precinct (西院伽藍) for the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍).

13Entering the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍), the East Court Bell Tower (東院鐘楼) stood prominently for the past 800 years since the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, 1192 – 1333).

14.JPGIn the Eastern Precinct (東院伽藍), the most impressive building is the octagonal Yumedono (夢殿, Hall of visions).  It houses some important statues as well as monk’s seating for prayers.

15Beautiful timber corner detail of Yumedono (夢殿, Hall of visions).

16The Yumedono is surrounded by another peaceful timber cloister and atmospheric trees.

17We headed back to the Western Precinct (西院伽藍), and passed by a number of vivid maples on the way.

18Also octagonal, the Saiendou (西円堂, West Round Hall) stands atop a hill at the northwest corner of the temple compound.

19Sandwiched between the cloister of the Western Precinct and hill of Saiendou stands the impressive Sangyoin (三経院).

20Despite the architectural beauty from the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, 1185 – 1333), our focus was shifted to the two cute cats sitting right by the entrance stair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe two cats often interacted with each other.

22After a thorough visit of the temple compound, we were ready to walk through the Nandaimon (南大門, South Gate) once again and found our way back to the local train station.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 


DAY 1 (3/6): NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

Some bloggers mention Ninnaji Temple (仁和寺) is their favorite temple in Kyoto.  It is not a small feat for any Kyoto temple to become someone’s favorite given the city has over 1600 temples.  We had high expectations for Ninnaji before the trip and was delighted to check out this head temple of the Omuro school of the Shingong Sect of Buddhism on our first day.  Following street signage, it was an easy 15-minute walk from Ryoanji to Ninnaji.  The air was cool and refreshing in the northwestern foothills of Kyoto.  The occasional vivid autumn leaves along the way made our walk even more pleasant.  Founded in AD 888 by Emperor Uda, Ninnaji Temple maintained its close connection with the imperial family until Meji Restoration in the 19th century.  For a thousand years the temple’s abbot had always been served by someone in the imperial family .  Today most surviving buildings date back to the 17th century.

Ninnaji Temple is consisted of two main parts: Garan (伽藍) and Goren (御殿).  The monumental main gate Nio-mon Gate (二王門) is one of the three famous gates in Kyoto, representing the magnificent timber skills and sense of beauty of ancient craftsmen.  We started our visit at the Goren (御殿) just behind the ticket office.  After taking off our shoes, we entered the Goren through a zigzag covered walkway, which ended at a peaceful dry zen garden known as the Dantei (南庭), or the South Garden.  The pebbles and sand were arranged in rows across a large area, with the beautiful Chokushi-mon Gate (勅使門) and the Nio-mon Gate as prominent visual focuses in the background.  The tranquil atmosphere of Dantei prompted us to stay for a short while to enjoy the pleasant moment.  Following the covered verandas, we walked around Dantei to admire the traditional wall paintings inside prayer rooms along the way.  The paintings on the golden walls in the Shinden (宸殿), the main hall, revealed an imperial touch in the design as if the interior of an imperial palace.  After another turn we reached a completely different garden, the Hokutei (北庭), the North Garden.  The main focus of Hokutei was a serene reflecting pool, reflecting the autumn foliage and the Five-Storey Pagoda in the Garan further in the background.  Just a few minutes before we were admiring the abstract dry landscape of Dantei, where sand and pebbles metaphorize the sea, rocks as islands and trees as forests.  A few minutes later we had entered a lush world of greenery and water in the Hokutei.

After the Goren, we walked over to Chu-mon Gate (中門) into the much larger Garan (伽藍).  The entire Goren area was like a park, with several buildings scattered over in the area.  We first headed over to the Gojunoto (五重塔), or the Five-storey Pagoda, an elegant tower visible from many places in Ninnaji.  Behind the pagoda, we arrived at  Kusho Myojin Shrine (九所明神), a peaceful Shinto shrine under the shade of trees.  After clapping, praying and bowing in front of the shrine, we continued to wander around Garan.  Next came Kyozo Sutra Hall (経蔵), a squarish timber building used to store the Buddhist scriptures.  Back to the central area, we reached the largest building in Garan, the Kondo (金堂), or the Golden Hall, and the orange painted Syoro (鐘楼).  None of these buildings were open, but it was the poetic atmosphere of these historical buildings in the natural setting that we enjoyed the most.  Before leaving, we had a quick visit of the Miedo (御影堂), a Buddhist hall dedicated to Kukai (弘法大師) – the famous 8th century Buddhist monk who studied Buddhism in Xian of China and founded Shingon Buddhism in Japan.  After a thorough visit of Goren and Garan, we walked through the monumental  Nio-mon Gate once again, leaving Ninnaji slightly after 3pm.  Because of the time of year the sun was already quite low, and it felt like late afternoon.  We decided to quickly take the bus a few stops northwards to probably the most popular attraction in Kyoto, the Kinkakuji (金閣寺), or the Golden Pavilion.  

01It was a pleasant 15-minute walk from Ryoanji Temple to Ninnaji Temple.

04We walked past beautiful autumn maples along the way.

02We finally reached the monumental Nio-mon Gate, the main gate of Ninnaji Temple.

03The timber structure of the Nio-mon Gate is a beautiful piece of architecture.

05After getting the admission tickets, we entered the Goren (御殿) via a stone path flanked by the dry landscape of pebble and sand.

06We took off our shoes and entered a zigzag covered walkway to enter the main buildings of Goren (御殿).

08The Dantei (南庭), South Garden, of Goren (御殿) is a peaceful dry landscape of pebbles and sand, with the Chokushi-mon Gate (勅使門) and Nio-mon Gate (二王門) as background.

10We followed the covered verandas to circle around the buildings of Goren (御殿).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe dry landscape of Dantei (南庭) could be appreciated at different angles along the way.

11An intimate pavilion just outside the timber veranda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe golden interiors of the Shinden (宸殿) reveals a sense of imperial aesthetics.

13The “wet” landscape of Hokutei (北庭) provided a stark contrast from the dry landscape of the Dantei (南庭).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was already getting low when we wandered around Ninnaji Temple.

14The Chu-mon Gate (中門) led us into the much larger Garan (伽藍) area.

15The old statue of a Buddhist Guardian at one side of the Chu-mon Gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Gojunoto (五重塔) in the Garan (伽藍) as seen from below.

17bUnder the tree shades, the Kusho Myojin Shrine (九所明神) looked peaceful.

16The squarish Kyozo Sutra Hall (経蔵) was a decent one-storey timber building with a big roof.

dsc_1233The Kondo (金堂), or the main hall in Garan in the park setting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe maple colour near the Kondo (金堂) were its peak.

20The orange Bell Tower adjacent to the Kondo.

19Autumn foliage in front of the Bell Tower.

dsc_1266The Miedo (御影堂) was the last building we visited in Ninnaji Temple.

18Before leaving Ninnaji, we passed by the maple leaves under the roof of the Kondo one last time.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan