ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Shrine

DAY 6 (4/6): RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山), Nanto (南砺市), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

45 minutes of bus ride took us deeper into the valley of Gokayama (五箇山) in Toyama Prefecture.  Our destination was Ainokura (相倉), one of the three villages with Gassho-zukuri houses inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Rain continued to pour down when we get off at Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  We had no choice but to brave the elements and walk uphill into the village from the country highway.  It took about 5 minutes to reach the village parking lot, and another 5 minutes to reach our guesthouse.  After checking in, we rested a bit until the rain subsided a little.

Sandwiched between dense forests on a hill and the Sho River (庄川) that runs in a deep valley, Ainokura is a situated on a narrow plain surrounded by forests and mountains.  With about about 30 preserved gassho-zukuri houses, the 450-year old village remains a quiet rural community with about 90 inhabitants as of 1994.  The region around Ainokura was nearly impenetrable until 1925, when a road was built through the surrounding forests.  Once a stronghold of silkworm production before the 1950s, the village has since become a self-sufficient rural community filled with rice paddies and flower fields.  Today, a few houses are open to visitors as museums or guesthouses, but most of the village remain private, unlike Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go where most houses have been converted into tourism-related uses.  The view of Ainokura from the adjacent hill may be less dramatic than the one from the Shiroyama Observatory Deck at Ogimachi, yet wandering in the remote village of Gokayama offers a much more tranquil and delightful experience as if going back in time.DSC_7861The rain was at times heavy as we entered Ainokura in mid afternoon.

DSC_7791Mist and clouds lingered around the surrounding mountains of Ainokura as we entered the village.

DSC_7923After a five minute walk from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop, we reached the main parking lot of the village and a small visitor centre.

DSC_7826Rice paddies of different sizes and shapes filled up all the spaces between village homes.

DSC_7932Most gassho-zukuri houses remain as private homes of villagers.

DSC_7777One of the gassho-zukuri houses at the village centre is turned into a souvenir shop.

DSC_7782On a high ground at the village centre stands the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine in the shade of tall trees.

DSC_7783Adjacent to the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a stepped path leads to a stone monument to commemorate the visit of a royal prince.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASonen-ji Temple (相念寺) is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple at the heart of Ainokura.

DSC_7953Jodo Shinshu Buddhism (浄土真宗) is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It is the most popular branch of Buddhism in Japan.

DSC_7960The Sonen-ji Temple (相念寺) building was completed in 1859.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Ainokura, there are several designated viewpoints, mostly on the slope or farming terraces right by the village.

DSC_7804We walked up to a few farming terraces to look for a desirable viewpoint for the village’s overview.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome viewpoints required us to walk further uphill into the dense forest adjacent to Ainokura.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed a series of signs to reach the highest viewpoint uphill.  The walk took about 15 minutes on a narrow paved road.

DSC_7867From the openings between trees, we could enjoy beautiful birdeye’s views of Ainokura.

DSC_7842From above, we could truly appreciated the thatched roofs of Ainokura, which are steeper than the ones in Shirakawa-go due to the heavier snowfall in Gokayama.

DSC_7857We truly sensed the remoteness of Ainokura with its surrounding mountains.

DSC_7769We wandered around Ainokura between periods of rain, but we didn’t entered any museums.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the village near our guesthouse, a downhill road led us to a large piece of mirror-like rice paddy.  Sunlight was fading, reminding us that dinner was about to start at our guesthouse.

 

 

 

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DAY 5 (5/5): HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

In Kyoto, Higashiyama (東山) is a famous historical district of temples, shrines, pagodas, and old streets. In Takayama, Higashiyama Walking Course  (東山遊歩道) that ventures into the quiet side of the city, the Teramachi Temple Area.  The 3.5km trail meander through a dozen or so temples and shrines in about 1.5 hour of walking, and does offer a Kyoto-like experience of temple hopping in the eastern side of the Takayama.  The Higashiyama Walking Course provides a great alternative from the crowded scenes of Sanmachi Suji District.

DSC_7218After touring the touristy Sanmachi Suji, we turned to the calmer side of Takayama.  Following Google Map, we found our way up to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), the lush green hill southeast of the historical district of Takayama.

DSC_7231Apart from lush green mature trees, the Shiroyama Park (城山公園) also contains the ruins of the former Takayama Castle (高山城).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the castle of the former governor of the Hida Province, Takayama castle was in use from 1588 to 1695.

DSC_7247_01On our way down to the Teramachi Temple Area, we passed by a stone stele depicting the Three wise monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

DSC_7249We passed by Dairyuji Temple (大隆寺) and its cemetery, continuing to walk downhill.

DSC_7256We left Shiroyama Park via Dairyuji Temple, crossed a canal and entered a quiet residential neighborhood dotted with temples and shrine.  The first temple we passed by was the torii gate and stair that led up to the Nishikiyama Shrine (錦山神社).

DSC_7272We continued the Higashiyama Walking Course and reached the next temple: Soyuji Temple (宗猷寺).  Located in the southernmost area of Teramachi Temple Area, the Buddhist temple of the Rinzai sect was built in 1632.

DSC_7275We walked over to Zennoji Temple (善応寺) a family temple of the lord of Matsukura castle.

DSC_7282We were then attracted by the flower blossoms, trees and shrubs around a dry garden of Hokkeji Temple (法華寺).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful wooden structures of Hokkeji Temple (法華寺) are the only Buddhist temple of the Nichiren sect in Hida.

DSC_7285It was already quite late when we arrived at Hokkeji Temple (法華寺).  We had both the temple and the popular stone bridge all by ourselves.  Although small in scale, the pond and stone bridge at the forecourt evoked a strong sense of nostalgic charm .

DSC_7297Sogenji Temple (素玄寺) is a Soto Zen sect stood next in line in our tour of the Higashiyama Walking Course.

DSC_7301The main hall of Sogenji was relocated here from the ruins of Takayama Castle.

DSC_7309Opposite to Sogenji stood Daiouji Temple (東林山大雄寺).  We were particularly drawn to a small shrine with stone statues and a vivid picture of Hell.

DSC_7310Towards the end of our tour of the Higashiyama Walking Course, we reached another tranquil temple complex, the Unryuji Temple (雲龍寺) (many visitors would consider this temple the beginning of the walk).

DSC_7317The gate tower of Unryuji was relocated from the Kouun Pavilion of Takayama Castle.  Through the gate, we could see a tranquil residence district down below.

DSC_7318After wandering around the Unryuji Temple, it was time for us to head back to the city centre for dinner.  We walked passed a small cemetery near Unryuji and turned left down to the Edogawa River.

DSC_7321We wandered in the small alleyways near Edogawa River, trying to zigzag ourselves back to the touristy city centre.

_5291145.JPGIt was lovely to walk along the river.  We followed the water for a while, slowly admiring the traditional houses under the late afternoon sunlight.  It did feel like walking in some old neighborhood of Kyoto.

 


DAY 4 (2/3): RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.28

After two days of hiking in Kamikochi (上高地), it was time for us to take a dip into one of the famous onsens of the Japanese Alps.  Out of the many hotsprings in the region, we picked Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉) because of its unique milky water.  “Shirahone” literally means “white bone”, referring to the milky colour of the calcium carbonate rich hot spring water that resembles white bone soup.  Shirahone Onsen is located at the eastern side of Mount Norikura (乗鞍岳) in the Northern Japanese Alps, in a secluded resort village tucked away from the country road between Matsumoto and Takayama.  Public transportation to Shirahone Onsen remains scarce throughout the day, as most local visitors would go by their own cars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a 8:25am bus from Kamikochi to Sawando (沢渡) Bus Terminal and National Park Gate, where we switched bus for Shirahone Onsen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sawando (沢渡) Bus Terminal and National Park Gate serve as an access hub for Kamikochi visitors.  Due to the restrictions on private cars and tour buses, many would park their car in Sawando and hop on a shuttle bus for Kamikochi.

DSC_6989From Sawando (沢渡) Bus Terminal, our local bus drove along a river gorge and through a series of tunnels before reaching Shirahone Onsen. We get off at right at the village entrance.  Time was still too early to check in at our ryokan.  We dropped down our backpacks at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館) and ventured outside hoping to tour around the village and grab a bite.

DSC_6818Looking down to the gorge from the main village road, we were disappointed to discover the damaged public onsen bath.  Probably damaged by local flooding, it seemed the public bath would be out of service in the near future.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a Monday morning and Shirahone village was extremely quiet.  Other than a souvenir shop, almost everything was closed including the tourist office and the main restaurant.  We were fortunate to stumble upon Baikoan (煤香庵), a traditional restaurant/ hot spring facility owned by Yumoto Saito Ryokan (湯元齋藤旅館), the oldest ryokan in the village.

DSC_6820The restaurant at Baikoan was not open, though the staff kindly made us coffee and chatted with us for a bit.  He told us that outside of summer holidays, most restaurants would be closed on weekdays.  All shops and restaurants were having difficulties to find helpers.

DSC_6828The dining hall was filled with interesting objects from the area, including a small “bear”.

DSC_6831Fire pit and hanging iron pot are common household features in the Japanese Alps.

DSC_6824Suggested by the staff, we each rented a towel and tried out their outdoor onsen.

IMG_6325At Baikoan (煤香庵), we each had our first dip into the milky water of Shirahone Onsen, the famous hot spring water with minerals that were said to work wonderful things to the body.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the hot spring bath, we spent some time wandering in the village, checking out each of the buildings, small shrines, wild flowers, etc.

DSC_6844Near the village entrance, we found a long row of small stone kannons lined along a lush green wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 33 kannons were donated by visitors in the Edo Period who came to Shirahone Onsen for curing their illness.

DSC_6863Right by the main road Route 300, a series of small waterfalls known as Ryujin Falls (竜神の滝) was a little surprise.

DSC_6866Down from Route 300, we descended into a densely vegetated gorge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the bottom of the gorge, we walked onto a wooden bridge to photograph a water cascade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wooden bridge was quite wet and covered with green moss.

DSC_6931The water cascaded out from a cavern about two hundred meters from the bridge.

DSC_6994Back to the main road, we climbed up a small berm to check out a small Shinto shrine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore checking in at Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), we stopped by the main village shop to get some snacks and drinks.

 


DAY 2 (1/5): SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U, Bagan, Myanmar, 2017.12.24

After a full day in Yangon, the second part of our trip would take us north to Bagan.  In the 9th to 13th centuries, Bagan was the ancient capital of the Pagan Kingdom, the first kingdom that united Myanmar.  Near the former royal capital Mandalay, Bagan is over 600km north of Yangon.  We chose flying to save time.  There are several local airlines that offer the service.  We picked Air KBZ, one of the guidebook recommended private airlines, and bought our tickets online two months prior to the trip.  To maximize the time in Bagan, we chose the 7:15 flight and left Yangon’s Loft Hotel before dawn.  We arrived at Yangon Airport in no time.  After checking in, we had a noodle breakfast at a cafe in the boarding area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmong several eateries we ended up sitting down at Gloria Jean’s Coffee in the boarding area for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack coffee and Shan noodles represented a set breakfast with a local twist.

DSC_3459Approaching Bagan, we could occasionally see Buddhist stupas in the landscape down below.  We were pretty excited as we approached the ancient capital of the Bagan Kingdom, where thousands of pagodas and stupas once stood on the dry plains near the Irrawaddy River.

DSC_3471After a little over an hour, our plane touched down at Nyaung U, the main town in the Bagan area.  Nyaung U was also where we would base ourselves in the next two days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nyaung-U Airport is a small airport that served only domestic flights.  Upon arrival, all passengers gathered at a room to wait for their luggage to be carried in by airport staff.  After picking up our luggage, we walked out to the arrival hall and was greeted by our local guide Win Thu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWin Thu took us back to our hotel Oasis Hotel to drop off our bags, and immediately began our Bagan tour by visiting Shwezigon Pagoda, the largest Buddhist temple in Nyaung-U.  All visitors of the pagoda are greeted by the chinthes, the traditional leogryph guardians of temples in Southeast Asia.

DSC_3539We took off our shoes and entered one of the two remaining entrance halls.  The entrance hall was crowded with pilgrims, tourists and vendors selling all kinds of religious offerings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance hall is a stone-paved covered walkway leading to the central pagoda compound and the gold gilded central pagoda.

DSC_3492Before approaching the golden stupa, we stopped by a pavilion with statues depicting the Buddhist story of the Four Sights: when the 29-year-old Siddhārtha left his royal palace for the first time and first met an elderly man, sick man, dead man and an ascetic.  The four sights led Siddhartha to realize the real sufferings in life, and inspired his decision to embark on an ascetic journey towards enlightenment.

DSC_3499In Shwezigon, there are shrines dedicated to local deities such as the Nat God.  Like many local deities, Nat predated the arrival of Buddhism in Myanmar and still remained popular today.

DSC_3477Completed in 1102 AD, the golden pagoda of Shwezigon Pagoda is believed to house a bone and tooth of Gautama Buddha.  The bell-shaped stupa represents the architectural tradition of the Mon people of ancient Myanmar.

DSC_3514Many visitors gathered around a tiny pool of water to check out the reflection of the golden pagoda.  According to our guide Win Thu, the king also used the pool of water to inspect the construction of the stupa.

DSC_3520The pagoda has a central solid core, with steps at the four cardinal directions rising from the base up the terraces for pilgrim’s worship.

DSC_3516Shwezigon Pagoda is the largest and most popular Buddhist temple in the Bagan area today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWin Thu led us to the back of the pagoda to check out the famous Chayar Tree.  The tree is famed for its year-round blossom, unlike other trees of its kind which would only flower at a certain period of a year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the back of the pagoda, we also found a small building housing local deities that predated Buddhism in Myanmar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore leaving Shwezigon Pagoda, we passed by a number of small prayer halls that surrounded the golden pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found our way back to where we came.  It was time to move on to the next designations in Bagan.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (6/9): GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

At 4pm, we left Downtown Yangon and headed for Shwedagon Pagoda, probably the most iconic sight of the city if not the entire Myanmar.  Our taxi stuck in busy traffic and it took us half an hour to arrived at the east gate of Shwedagon Pagoda from Downtown Yangon.  We specifically chose to visit the pagoda in the latter half of the afternoon, as we planned to stay at the pagoda compound till dusk when the golden stupa would glow in the flickering candle lights and flooded lights.  At the east gate, we took off our shoes and left them on a shelf, and squeezed in a lift with the locals to head up the Singuttara Hill where the central pagoda and the main terrace were located.  From the lift tower, we crossed a link bridge over to the main terrace.  The first glance of the golden spires of Buddhist shrines was quite overwhelming.  Beyond the the various ornate shrines, prayer halls, and planetary posts, the majestic 99m central stupa known as the Shwedagon Pagoda stood proudly at the heart of everything.  Fully gilded with gold, this central stupa dwarfed all other stupas, shrines, altars, statues, and prayer halls on Singuttara Hill.

Probably erected by the Mon people between 6th and 10th century AD, the Shwedagon Pagoda has been the centre of Myanmar’s Buddhist universe for centuries.  Legend has it that the original stupa at Singuttara Hill was dated to 2600 years ago, when Taphussa and Bhallika met Gautama Buddha during his lifetime and brought back 8 of his hair as sacred relics.  A stupa at Singuttara Hill was built to house the hair.  The stupa evolved throughout the centuries, as shrines and prayer halls added by different kings and donors, and the height of the stupa increased several times during history until the present 99m.  The pagoda wasn’t always covered in gold in the past.  In the 15th century, Queen Shin Sawbu donated gold plates equaled to her own weight to be riveted onto the stupa surface.  Since then, cladding the stupa in gold had became a tradition for rulers.

We took our time wandering around the 114-acre pagoda site.  After an hour or two meandering through all kinds of Buddhist structures and visiting the interesting photo gallery, we sat down at the open space at the northwest corner near the Friday planetary post to chill out, waiting for the sun to set and candles to lit up.

DSC_2869Our taxi dropped us off at the east gate of Singuttara Hill.  We followed the locals to take an elevator up to the main terrace level.

DSC_2880Once we reached the main terrace, we were immediately overwhelmed by the fine details and golden ornaments of the surrounding shrines and prayer halls.

DSC_2907In the midst of everything stood the majestic 99m Shwedagon Pagoda.

DSC_2946We circled the pagoda and stopped by some of the interesting shrines.  Chinthe, the legendary half-lion, half dragon creatures are commonly found as guardians in Buddhist temples of Southeast Asia.

DSC_3013It was hard to imagine just how many gold plates were being applied onto the surface of the Shwedagon Pagoda over the centuries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 25 ton Singu Min Bell (Maha Gandha Bell) was a donation in 1779 by King Singu.

DSC_2914The big Buddha at the northwest corner of the compound is a fine example of Buddha images found at Shwedagon Pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADisplayed behind glass, the jade Buddha reminds all visitors that Myanmar has the biggest gemstones and jade mining in the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree out of the four main staircases known as zaungdan stairs at the four cardinal directions are filled with vendors of religious merchandise.

DSC_3018The four monumental covered staircases are all splendidly decorated.

DSC_3024Everything on the main terrace of Shwedagon Pagoda seemed to be golden in colour.

DSC_3066Away from the main circulation space around the central pagoda, we walked by a number of prayer halls and shrines.  These structures were built in different periods in history, but many were rebuilt after the 1931 fire that caused damages to the wooden structures in the compound.

DSC_3069The 150-year-old Bodhi Tree at the southeast corner of the compound is said to be descended from the original Bodhi Tree in Northern India where the Buddha meditated underneath.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViewing the Shwedagon Pagoda from the north gate was one of our favorite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt 6:30pm, the sun began to set.  More visitors arrived from the staircases at the four cardinal directions.

DSC_3096Only staff and monks are allowed to climb onto the terraces of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

DSC_3139In the Photo Gallery northwest of the central pagoda, we were able to see photographs of the treasures on the pagoda spire, including about 5000 diamonds, 2300 rubies, sapphires, and other gems.

DSC_3143One of the most famous treasures of Shwedagon Pagoda is undoubted the 72 carat diamond at the top of the spire.

DSC_3108After visiting the Photo Gallery, we sat down at the open space in front of the gallery as the sun began to set.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR


DAY 1 (3/9): SULE PAGODA, Yangon, Myanmar, 2017.12.23

After lunch at 999 Shan Noodle House, we walked over to the City Hall.  Across the street from the City Hall stood Sule Pagoda, the iconic octagonal stupa that marked the heart of Yangon.  We decided to pay a quick visit to this wonderful monument before venturing further south.

Built in the 5th century BC, the 2600 year old was said to even predate the famous Shwedagon.  The stupa was built in the style of Mon pagoda architecture, back in the era when the Mon people was a dominant ethnic group in the region.  The Mon people was also responsible for spreading Theravada Buddhism throughout Southeast Asia.  The Mon name of Sule Pagoda is “kyaik athok ceti”, meaning “stupa with a sacred hair enshrined”.  Legend has it that the Sule Pagoda contains one of Buddha’s hairs given to merchant Tapussa and Bhallika.  The rest of the same strand of Buddha’s hairs were said to be kept at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Before the British set out to develop Yangon and its port area, Sule Pagoda was situated on an island surrounded by a swamp at the banks of Yangon River.  The British drained the area, constructed a prominent roundabout centred at the Pagoda and defined Sule as the heart of Downtown Rangoon (now Yangon).  Today, Sule pagoda remains as an iconic spot of the city, and has served as the centre stage of civilian rallies and demonstrations throughout the years.

DSC_2641We crossed the street from the City Hall to the east entrance of the Sule Pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the entrance, we followed the rules and took off our shoes and socks, left them with one of the staff, purchased admission tickets and then climbed up the stairs to the main worshiping area.  This was our first experience of walking barefoot in Myanmar.

DSC_2653The first thing we saw beyond the stair was a cosy and golden altar with many pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of the covered altar was a series of small golden shrine surrounding the base of the octagonal pagoda.  It’s important for the Burmese to know which day of the week they were born in order to find the right shrine to worship.   There are eight planetary shrines around the pagoda, each represents a planet as well as a particular day of the week, with Wednesday split into two (am and pm).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWater and food can be found at the pagoda complex, usually donated by Buddhist worshipers, who believe good deeds are one of the basis for path of enlightenment.

DSC_2678Soon we reached another entrance of the Sule Pagoda.  Entrances of the pagoda are arranged at the four cardinal directions: north, south, east and west.

DSC_2680The corresponded altar of this entrance looked somewhat different than the one we first arrived at.

DSC_2685Like all shrines in Myanmar, gold is the single dominant colour of the octagonal Sule Pagoda.

DSC_2693At the Saturday shrine, another two worshipers were busy performing rituals and cleaning the altar with water.

DSC_2695Under the scorching sun, many worshipers stayed at the shaded area to mediate.  It was interesting to see many young people were among the devoted worshipers.

DSC_2699When looking closely, the fine details and craftsmanship of the golden ornaments were overwhelmingly impressive.

DSC_2700.JPGAt another entrance altar, colourful fresco depicted a number of Buddhist stories high up near the ceiling.

DSC_2706Each of the four altars has a distinct set of ornaments.

DSC_2711Other than the devoted worshippers, some locals were just hanging around in the pagoda area as if the space was a public park.  In fact, Buddhist shrines in Myanmar do serve as community spaces that welcome everyone.

DSC_2712It was relaxing to walk on bare feet around the Sule Pagoda.  Surprising we didn’t feel uncomfortable without our shoes and socks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the entrance where we arrived, there was a group of people gathered at a pulley wire, waiting for the staff to send their prayer cards up to the pagoda by the golden prayer boat.

DSC_2714Via a wire pulley system, the golden prayer boat sends prayer cards of worshippers up to the pagoda.

DSC_2717A staff at the base worked the pulley to send up the prayer boat while a group of worshipers gathered to witness the process.

DSC_2739After one loop, we repeated the clockwise stroll around the Sule Pagoda for a second time.

DSC_2743After two loops around the pagoda, we walked down the stair where we first arrived, put on our shoes, and moved on to further explore Downtown Yangon.

* * *

Blog posts on Myanmar 2017:

Day 1: Yangon, Myanmar
DAY 1: INTRODUCTION OF A SHORT BURMESE CHRISTMAS VACATION
DAY 1: WALK TO 999 SHAN NOODLE HOUSE
DAY 1: SULE PAGODA
DAY 1: COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
DAY 1: BUSTLING STREET LIFE
DAY 1: GOLDEN WORLD OF SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A PLACE FOR PEOPLE, Shwedagon Pagoda
DAY 1: EVENING MAGIC OF THE GOLDEN SHWEDAGON PAGODA
DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT

Day 2: Bagan
DAY 2: SHWEZIGON PAGODA, Nyaung-U
DAY 2: HTILOMINLO AND UPALI THEIN
DAY 2: ANANDA PAHTO
DAY 2: SUNSET AT OLD BAGAN
DAY 2: SILENT NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 3: Bagan
DAY 3: MAGICAL SUNRISE, Old Bagan
DAY 3: NYAUNG-U MARKET, Nyaung-U
DAY 3: SULAMANI TEMPLE
DAY 3: DHAMMAYANGYI TEMPLE
DAY 3: THATBYINNYU TEMPLE
DAY 3: NAPAYA, MANUHA AND GUBYAUKGYI, Myinkaba
DAY 3: SUNSET No. 2, Old Bagan
DAY 3: FINAL NIGHT IN NYAUNG-U

Day 4: Farewell Myanmar
DAY 4: FAREWELL BAGAN FAREWELL MYANMAR

 


DAY 5 (1/1): MEIJI JINGU (明治神宮), Harajuku (原宿), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.18

The sky was grey on our last day in Tokyo.  We decided to spend the morning at nearby Harajuku (原宿).  We moved our suitcase and backpack to the lockers in Shibuya Station (渋谷), and then took the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) one stop over to Harajuku.  Despite we had been to Harajuku a few times, we had never ventured beyond the shopping and entertainment areas.  This time, we decided to spend a peaceful morning at Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), the Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the insightful leader who modernized Japan at the end of the 19th century.  Built in 1920, the original shrine complex was destroyed during World War Two.  The shrine was rebuilt soon after the war.  We had seen photographs of the large and lovely torii gates at the forested path of Meiji Shrine.  It was interesting to see such massive and traditional wooden structures surrounded by mature trees at the heart of Tokyo, just a stone throw away from all the neon lights of youthful Takeshita Street (竹下通り) and fashionable Omotesandō (表参道).  While we were there, some buildings were under renovations for its 100th anniversary in 2020.  We took our time to walk around the compound, wrote down our wishes on an ema (wooden plate to hang at the shrine), and enjoyed a peaceful walk in the urban forest.

Before heading back to Shibuya for the Narita Express, we dropped by the roof garden of Tokyu Plaza for breakfast.  Most shops had yet opened their doors in Harajuku, and we had another quiet moment in an urban oasis.  By the time we returned to Shibuya to pick up our luggage, it finally started to rain.  The rain lasted for the entire afternoon.  It was still raining heavily when our plane took off at the runway of Narita later that day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are a few locker areas at Shibuya Station.  We almost went to a wrong locker area to pick up our luggage.  Luckily, when we left our luggage we took a photo of the locker area to remind ourselves, and that proved handy at the end.

02The timber structure of Harajuku Station is unique in Tokyo.  Hopefully this historical building can survive the massive redevelopment of the area prior to the Olympic Games.

03We loved the massive torii gate of Meiji Jingu.  The natural finish matches perfectly with the surrounding forest.

04Sake offering at the Meiji Jingu.

06The second large torii gate midway into the path of Meiji Jingu.

07Quite a number of buildings at Meiji Jingu were under renovation for 2020.

08There were a lot of visitors at the early hours of the day.

09The natural appearance of a Japanese timber structure offers the best harmony with the surrounding nature.

10Writing the Ema (wooden prayer plates) is always fun.

11After hanging our ema, we bid farewell to the peaceful Meiji Jingu.

01Time was still early when we walked to Tokyu Plaza.  Since the shopping centre had yet opened its doors, we found our way up to the roof garden via an elevator at the side.

02The roof garden of Tokyu Plaza is always a great place to hang out.  While some were having breakfast like us, there were a few dozing off at the far corners.

03Not many visitors were around.  We could admire the interesting design of the decking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking down to the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji Jingumae, the popular crossing were almost empty of pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain hadn’t arrived yet, and we had a relaxing breakfast at the roof garden.