Autumn

Pictures!

It’s autumn.

autumn-balcony

The leaves are turning and it gets a little bit colder every day. I bought a “gas fan heater” – a natural gas heater – and as Japanese homes have next to no insulation, I’ve been putting it to good use. Here it is in all its glory.

heater

On Saturday, I made a trip to Kyoto. It was a bit of a last-minute affair; I didn’t start the 1.5-hour train ride until 10:00, but I wanted to see Kyoto in its autumn colors and the weather report said it would rain on Sunday, so I leapt at the window of opportunity. As it turned out, it started raining mid-afternoon on Saturday – earlier than predicted – so I didn’t get to do as much as I had hoped, but the trip was still well worth the trouble.

I really only accomplished two things. I ate lunch and I visited a temple.

Lunch was at a restaurant called Tagoto, in central Kyoto.  [Edit: Tagoto’s website has been redone. The English portion is now just a page of text, but the pictures on the top page speak for themselves.] Tagoto is in an upscale shopping district and has a very narrow storefront (note that I ate at the original Tagoto, but there are also a few branch locations). From the street, you only see a curtained doorway and a sign, and I almost missed it as I walked by.

My Japan guidebook mentioned lunch at Tagoto as a way to try high class Kyoto cuisine without breaking the bank. A meal for one was about $27, but that’s less than half what dinner costs, and the bill at this type of restaurant is often more than $100 per head.

I could go into more detail, but to get the point, the food was outstanding. I mean really, really good. Wow.

The temple I visited was Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto’s iconic sites. Kiyomizu means “pure water” (tera/dera = temple), and the complex dates from 778, when a Buddhist monk was led by a vision to a font of water, where he then founded Kiyomizu-dera.

The temples were rebuilt in 1633, but the water still flows today, and is regarded as having curative powers.

kiyomizu

I didn’t wait in line for a drink, though.

This is a shot from above…

kiyomizu2

…which leads me Kiyomizu-dera’s most famous feature. The main temple has a huge veranda that juts out over the hillside. There is a legend that if you jump off the veranda and survive, your wish will be granted. Apparently there were over two hundred recorded attempts during the Edo period (1600-1868), and the success rate was about 85%. Chances were no doubt improved by all the greenery on the slope.

kiyomizudera3

From this vantage, you can see some of the other buildings of the temple complex :

kiyomizudera2

If you are particularly observant, you’ll notice that while the other buildings are constructed in the usual manner of Buddhist temples, the main hall has a thatched roof instead of tiles. I know that there’s a reason for it, but I’m not clear on the story. Something about a general receiving a mansion from the emperor and then dismantling it and donating the parts for the construction of the main temple.

Okay, I need to wrap this up and get to bed, so that’s what I’ll do. Here’s one last picture.

kiyomizudera1

おやすみ。(Goodnight.)

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4 Responses to “Autumn”

  1. Doug Says:

    Most excellent! It appears you got a good return on your three hours of train riding. Your landscape photos are good, even with the fall light. I’m curious to see some really mundane shots as well, like your neighborhood at street level, your train station, schools, grocery store, drinking with teachers or JETs, and the like. Are there trails you can hike through the forest near your apartment? Are there trolls in the woods?

  2. Patrick Says:

    Great pictures. I hope you packed the blanket that you always wrap yourself in. :) The weather is still not much to talk about here.

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

  3. Nicole Says:

    I like the last picture a lot. Are the trees on ‘your’ mountain mostly deciduous? Are there any squirrels or chipmunks?? (Hey, do coons live in Japan?)

  4. kevinjames Says:

    There are some trails in the mountains, although the closest is one train stop over. The trees are a mix of deciduous and evergreen, with the occasional grove of bamboo. If you look closely at the first picture, you can see a solid patch of evergreens in the middle. I’m not sure if one type is predominant, though.

    As for wildlife, I haven’t seen anything other than birds and bugs, but I understand that we have some interesting critters. We’ve got monkeys. We’ve got wild boars. And according to a warning sign I saw once, we’ve got vipers (so I’ll keep my hiking to the established trails). I think there are some raccoons, too. They aren’t native to East Asia, but apparently some people in Japan tried keeping them as pets 20 or 30 years ago, inspired by “Rascal.” Naturally, this didn’t work well, and now there are raccoons roaming Japan.

    And a very belated Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, too.

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