How many temples can you visit in day before you become a saint or Buddha unconditionally? If there is an answer for that, and is higher than 5, then I may have tried harder. On a bicycle, that is how many temples and shrines I visited in just one day in Kyoto alone. Not to mention, because of the heat, I was several shades darker as a result!
Yes, I am actually now down in Kyoto where they are famous for Geishas, temples, shrines, palaces and castles. It was once the capital of Japan back in the so-called “Heian” period in the year 794 to 1185ad. So naturally this place is full of historical structures. Almost every site I had visited so far is some sort of “World Heritage”. It is almost boring after a while!
Kyoto apparently has over 1600 Buddhist temples, and 400 Shinto shrines alone! So, it’s not that hard to feel “templed out”. Not to mention the nearby Nara is also full of temples & shrines as well! Yes, the term “Templed Out” must have been invented here, to mean you visited SO many temples you are absolutely sick of it! I certainly felt that way here in Kyoto alone. You have NO CHOICE but to run into a temple walking around town.
Anyway, I will only mention the few that I visited and felt that they were impressive
This one is actually in Nara, called Todai-Ji (???). What is so impressive about it? It is the largest wooden structure in the world housing a giant bronze Buddha statue. Go ahead and google it, to confirm that if you like. What is even more impressive about it is that, this present structure is only 2/3 of the original that was burnt down. So, it was in fact larger!
Perhaps what is also interesting about Nara, is that it is also famous for its wild deers roaming around freely everywhere. These deers are believed to be messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion. All I see is ‘food’, to be frank! 🙂
If you have any food on you, be prepared to be attacked by them all. Talk about spoilt animals!! It certainly entertains the young ones though. They may seem cute, but they do get in the way sometimes.
2. Kinkaku-Ji (“Gold Pavillion Temple” or ???)
Now, this one is impressive to look at. It’s located in northern Kyoto not too far from where I am staying. The original history dates back to 1397, but because of fire damages, the current structure is a reconstructed version dating back to 1955. And here is what it looks like:
It is apparently covered with real gold leaf. But whether it really is gold or not, is another matter. Point is, it was home to a very rich Shogun (named Yoshimitsu), and this is where he spent his retired life. And because it is covered in gold, it is also one of the busiest and most visited tourist attraction in Kyoto. Is it human nature to be attracted to anything gold in colour??
3. Ginkaku-Ji (“Silver Pavilion Temple” or ???)
Ok.. so naturally you might think this one would be ‘silver’ right? It is a Zen temple today. The history dates back to 1490 (well after the Gold Pavilion), and was in fact planned by the grandson of the Gold Pavilion owner, to become his retirement villa also. So again, it should look silver right? Here is what it looks like:
Hmm.. that’s right. There’s not a hint of silver on that building. There is probably more silver in the sweat streaming down my face, than on that villa!! In short, it was said that the Shogun ran out of money, and could not afford to paint the building silver! Hence, it is left as it is today without any silver on it at all!!
4. Kiyomizu-Dera (???)
This one gets a mention because it is so close to Kyoto, and has a great of view of the city as well. It is a temple that sits on top of Higashiyama mountain right next to centre of town.
The original structure dates right back to the year 798 a.d., while the current structure dates back to 1633. It is still fairly old, and apparently not a single nail is used to construct it. It even made it to one of 21 finalists for the new seven wonders of the world, but it didn’t win. Nevertheless, you definitely feel a sense of ‘peace’ up here, even if you are not religious. The whole atmosphere here will certainly calm you down.
Anyway, I certainly visited a LOT more temples & shrines than the ones mentioned above. As mentioned earlier, I am templed out by now, and it was certainly not cheap either. Most major temples incur an entrance fee of about 500yen – 700 yen (~AUD$7), and given the number of temples & shrine there are (Remember, there are over 1600 temples alone!), I would be a very poor man if I made an effort to visit them all!
Let me get on with other stuff that Kyoto has to offer…