(photo credit: Menahem Fogel)
The best panorama of Kyoto is available from Kiyomizu Dera, a complex of
Buddhist temples in the eastern part of the city. From here you can see the
entire Kyoto basin, and how this beautiful city is protected and encompassed by
three mountain ranges.
steep climb up a tourist/trinket shop lined street to this very impressive
complex. Some of them are the Japanese version of the dollar store and they do a
pretty trade from the many people who come here. Thats the thing about tourism
in this country. The vast majority of it is internal. Kyoto, for example,
received some 45 million tourists per year. All of Japan receives around 10
million foreign tourists per year. I guess this is one of the reasons that
theres not a whole lot of foreign language signs here. But, back to the Temple.
The Kiyomizu temple itself is perched high on the steep side of a mountain in
Eastern Kyoto. The entire structure is supported by a wondrously woven set of
beams that all fit together without the use of even a single nail. Amazing!
expression “to take the plunge” has a Japanese equivalent. Here, they say “to
jump off the stage at Kiyomizu.” Well, it is, in fact, quite literal. Taking the
plunge means more or less to accept a dare or to take a bold, dramatic step
forward. The stage at Kiyomizu is 13m high, and many people have indeed taken
the plunge off it. During the Edo period of Japan’s history, it was said that if
one survived the jump, one’s wishes would come true. Many did jump. Most, but
not all, survived.
The trouble with jumping off the stage at Kiyomizu is that you’re likely to
miss the next feature of this interesting complex of temples, Jishu-ji, the
temple of love and “good matches.” This temple has two stones in its courtyard.
Called “love-stones”, it is said that if one can walk the 18m between the stones
unaided, one’s wishes for a worthy spouse will come true. If you need assistance
in completing the distance, the wish will come true – but you’ll need some help.
Thus, depending on your point of view, this temple could be a
’s dream - or nightmare.
translates as “pure water.” The name is drawn from the nearby Otowa waterfall,
where the water is divided into three channels that drop into a pond. According
to tradition, if you drink from the water of Otowa-san, you’ll be blessed with
longevity, wisdom and health.
Not being one to miss a dare – but also not being one to jump off a 13m high
veranda – I stepped up to the falling water. Here I discovered metal cups with
meter long handles with which I could scoop up and sip this blessed water. In
order to keep everything hygienic (after all, this is
Japan), the cups
are stored inside an ultraviolet sterilizer. I took a sip from each of the three
falls of water but I didn’t feel any different. One of my travelers suggested
that now that I was promised longevity, maybe I should take the plunge anyway.
“No way,” I replied.
See, I’m smarter already!