Japan Part II - Shrines and Temples

No visit to Japan is complete without a visit to a Shinto Shrine and a Buddhist Temple or two.  They are beautiful places, simultaneously serene and peaceful and bustling and crowded.  Feasts for the eyes and for the soul.  

We started our tour of Japan at Asakusa, at the Asakusa Shrine and the adjacent Senso-Ji Temple.  This little guy was guarding the shrine:
Senso-Ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo.  Is was very busy!
Inside the temple you could buy charms and talismans:
I loved this big lantern at Senso-Ji:
The grounds are pretty extensive.  The surrounding area is full of open air shops that are a lot of fun to browse.  And there are many beautiful buildings:
In Kyoto, we visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine, dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.
Foxes are thought to be the messengers of Inari, and there are many fox statues on the grounds.  This guy is holding a sheaf of rice:
This fox holds the key to the granary:
 The shrine features thousands of Torii gates leading up the mountain behind the shrine.  The vermilian gates were beautiful! One of my favorite colors.  I think this photo would make an excellent abstracted landscape:
Or this one:
We bought a few charms halfway up the mountain.  This one is supposed to bring me health, happiness and prosperity.  Certainly that is worth 500 yen!
The shrine was gorgeous.  And, once again, the grounds were jammed with people.  Many in kimonos.
We also visited the Golden Pavilion, known as Kinkaku-ji but officially called Rokuon-ji.  Originally a nobleman's villa, Kinkaku-ji is now a Buddhist temple.  The top two stories are covered with gold leaf, and it glows.  It is surrounded by stunning gardens and set on the shore of a small lake:
I loved the tea house.  Very minimalist.  A good contrast to the very showy Golden Pavilion:
In Kyoto, we also visited the Heian Shrine, also on extensive grounds with a beautiful lake and garden.
 Sake kegs -- offerings to the shrine:
At Shinto shrines you can buy a paper fortune.  It's a fun thing to do -- you make a donation, shake a can and the paper with your fortune pops out.  If you like your fortune, you keep it.  If you don't, you tie it on a rack or tree to ensure that it doesn't come true.  You have to love that kind of flexibility:
In Nara, we visited Todai-ji, a famous Buddhist temple set in Nara Deer Park.  Deer are considered messengers of the gods in Shinto religion, and in the park they are allowed to roam freely.  Perhaps a bit too freely.  At the entrance to the grounds there is a warning about the deer:
But, I thought, deer?  Aggressive?  How can that be?

And then I was attacked by a herd of hungry deer, fully expecting to be fed.  If you don't comply, they nip you on the backside.  Or grab your shirt and pull.  Or butt you on the leg.  Ask me how I know:
If they feel like cooperating, and you have food in your hand, they will bow for you.  It was pretty cute.  Almost made up for being attacked.

The temple itself was huge.  And no deer are allowed in the immediate vicinity, which made it very peaceful:
 I love the stone lanterns.  This one was immense:
The world's largest seated Buddha:
The temple was huge.  There were several other Buddhas:
And this Buddha outside on the porch.  He was dressed for inclement weather.  We were told to rub his knee or his pill box to cure our ailments.  Of course I did.  I'll let you know if it works:
In Nara, we also visited Kasuga-taisha, known for the bronze lanterns inside the shrine and the stone lanterns lining the paths and walkways of the shrine:
 More sake:
In Kyoto, Natalie and I were exploring a huge, bustling, noisy market in the middle of downtown.  At the end of the market, there was a shrine, the Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine.  It was lovely and serene after the chaos of the market:
The entrance from the shopping center was full of paper lanterns:
I bought charms at several shrines. They should cover me for prosperity, health, wisdom and safe travel:
Coming next:  Museums in Tokyo and Kyoto


Norma Schlager said…
Thanks for the memories. My trip to Japan a few years ago was one of my favorite. I've been to most of the places you show. Those deer were quite the thing. They knocked my friend right off the stone wall she was sitting on. They wanted even more food after she was done feeding them. I'm sure there will be a wonderful quilt using all this inspiration when you get home.
Heather Pregger said…
II came back ready to get back to work. I have a few pieces to finish up, and then we’ll see what happens!