April 15, 2013
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Sumiya Treasure House

1-1 2-1Points of View
(1)The lightness of the frame
(2)The darkness in the room
(3)The decorative interior

This two-story building was built more than 350 years ago in the town of Kyoto. In those days, men would have dined, drunk and played various cultural games with intellectual women in the building. They would also have enjoyed playing or listening to music and writing waka and haiku, both of which are types of Japanese poem. There would have been many houses like this at the time, but only this one remains.

The building has three features: lightness, darkness and decorativeness. Lightness and darkness are general features of Japanese traditional houses, while decorativeness is one of the natural aspects of Kyoto culture in a way. The house therefore contains the characteristics of traditional houses as well as one of the characteristics of Kyoto culture. Now, let’s look at this house.

In traditional houses, a kind of sliding papered door known as an akari-shoji is used. This kind of door lets sunlight into the room through the thin paper, but blocks the view. It is made of a wooden frame, bars and white paper. Thin wooden bars are set into the wooden frame, and thin snow-white paper is pasted onto them. The bars are normally crossed vertically and horizontally at a certain distance, but in this building some bars are crossed diagonally, and others are curved like waves, a technique which requires very sophisticated skills. A range of patterns is elegantly drawn on the pure white canvas of the akari-shoji using wooden bars, and these remarkable skills have transformed such sliding doors into beautiful works of art.

The appearance of akari-shoji during the day differs from that at night. In the daytime, the outside is lighter than the inside, and sunlight passing through the whiteness of the akari-shoji changes to a gentle snow-white light, with the shadows of the wooden bars clearly silhouetted against the whiteness of the paper. In contrast, at nighttime when it is completely dark outside, the dim candlelight in the room illuminates the akari-shoji, and the softer brightness of the candle emphasizes the sharp lines of the wooden bars against a warm, soft hue of orange-tinged white. This is the subtle and profound world of black and white ink painting.

It is generally quite dark inside old Japanese houses such as Sumi-ya, providing a sharp contrast with the brightness found inside modern houses. However, darkness does not necessarily represent inconvenience. First, the dimness of incandescent or candle lighting has a relaxing effect on people. Japanware, a traditional craft product of Japan, was generally made in dim lighting, and its inherent beauty can only really be appreciated when it is used in a dim space. This dimness is part of the essence of Japanese architecture.

On the second floor are some decorative rooms, each of which has a different taste. In one room, the shape of a fan is used as a design pattern, while in another the ceiling and walls are designed in a diagonal pattern. Another room is decorated with beautiful blue-colored shells in a Chinese flavor.

Sumi-ya is a precious heritage, retaining the essence of Japanese culture, lightness and the darkness and the decorativeness of Kyoto culture.

August 2, 2011
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Byodoin Temple

2 (2) 3 (1)Points of View
(1)Looking at the main building from all angles
(2)Looking at the illusion of the building reflected in the pond
(3)The images of the Buddha inside the temple

The impressive appearance of the main building is quite familiar to most Japanese people. They see it at least once a day as it is engraved on the ten-yen coin. The architectural composition here is excellent, and its inherent sense of balance makes it truly one of the best temples in Japan. It was built in the 1000’s by the aristocratic rulers of the day, at a time when society was very unstable due to years of continuous plague, religious superstition and a vortex of war with no end in sight. With such desperate conditions, people earnestly hoped to at least go to paradise after their death. This temple was built for such wishes, and therefore both its interior and exterior display images of paradise. Now, let’s take a look at the building itself, the relationship between the building and the pond, and the images of the Buddha.

On entering the precinct and walking for a while, you see the main hall over the pond. The hall is flanked by arcades and pavilions, creating the impression of a phoenix. The second story of its arcades is ornamental and has no function at all. Each piece of the framework is joined together in exquisite balance, creating a superb beauty. If any of the parts were too large or too small, the whole building would be thrown off balance.

This building has a presence that is dominating without being overwhelming.  The reasons for this are, I think, threefold: the wings without walls on either side serve to considerably lighten the perceived mass of the building; a big pond is located just in front of the structure; and the size of the columns and other parts appears small in comparison with the size of building.

Seen directly from the front, the architecture appears perfectly symmetrical despite its highly complicated appearance, and changes dramatically depending on where you stand. The components and parts are organically bound to each other. Known as Phoenix Hall, the image is of a building about to take off.

There is, incidentally, a big pond just in front of the building. Why is this here? Ponds in the gardens of temples or villas are quite common for a number of reasons. One of these is that people wanted to enjoy the scenery effectively, and putting a pond in the center of a garden reflects the scenery in its surface like a large mirror. People can also walk around the pond and enjoy the changing of scenery from a range of different viewpoints. In this case, however, the pond was made for religious reasons. Seeing the building over a pond places a special emphasis on the building as paradise, and the pond was used to show off the structure as the next world.

Inside the building is a large image of the Buddha with a modest face. The upper walls inside the building are decorated with many small images,

each of which rides airily on a cloud and carries some kind of instrument. These images also show Paradise, the Pure Land. They have very peaceful faces, and their appearance is small and sweet. Although the paint on the inside has come off completely and it is now difficult to imagine, the building was originally covered with many colorful patterns.

The relationships between the structure, the pond and the images apply just as much to the words, lightness and modesty, as well as to the dynamic and rhythmical elements found here. People in those days expressed paradise in this way. On both sides of the roof stand a pair of ornamental phoenix, a symbol of peace and prosperity, responsible for the temple’s name as well as its physical appearance. The temple is a symbol of the time when it was built.

January 28, 2011
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Kinkakuji Temple

1 (10) 2 (9)Points of View 
(1) The Pavilion Reflected on the Pond 
(2) The Deep Forest around the Pavilion 
(3) The Moss Above the Pavilion

This temple is quite famous for its golden pavilion. The artificial-looking structure is covered with gold leaf, which strongly contrasts with the surrounding nature and shows off the natural elements. Now, let’s take a look at how the pavilion stands in contrast with the surrounding nature.

After passing through the gate, you see the straight approach ahead to the ticket booth. After buying a ticket and entering the site, you see the golden pavilion over the big pond. The building has three stories, and the upper two are covered with gold leaf (except for the roof section). Gazing at the pavilion for a while, it seems to me as if it floats on the pond because the lower story is not covered with gold. On a sunny day, the building is clearly reflected on the pond’s surface, thus enhancing the presence of the pond.

Many trees are planted around the building and the pond, and their deep green contrasts with the gold of the building. A number of pine trees are planted nearby, and in winter the tips of these trees change from green to yellow. It seems as if the phoenix on top of the roof was about to flap away and poured gold onto the pines.

Leaving the pavilion and the pond, visitors progress up the slope. Moss covers the ground, and pine trees grow on both sides of the slope. The trees change from green in spring through autumn to yellow in winter.

After walking up the slope for a while, you reach an elevated spot where you can see the pavilion over the moss and pine trees. As the sun sets in the west, the surface of the moss shines gold like the pavilion.

Many pine trees grow in the precinct, and the surface on both sides of the slope is covered with moss Many kinds of potential gold exist here:. The tips of the winter pines and the moss reflecting the western sunlight in the winter.

November 15, 2008
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Kamigamo Shrine

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Points of View
(1)Be attentive to various sounds
(2)See and listen to the smooth flow of water
(3)Feel the coolness from the flowing water and the breathing trees

Kamigamo shrine is in the northern part of Kyoto, less than an hour from Kyoto Station by bus. Nearby is a big river, the Kamo. Rich forests surround the shrine and brooks run through the site. The bracing atmosphere of the rich natural surroundings has a lot to do with the essence of shrines. Originally, such structures were made for worshiping the ancestors and gods of ancient Japanese myths and elements of nature. This shrine worships nature itself, and this can be enjoyed by visitors. Now, let’s enjoy this shrine in terms of our senses.

Early morning is the best time here, with fresh air pleasantly pervading throughout. The bus will take you to the shrine’s first Torii, the sacred arch. Passing through it, you will see a wide-stretching approach toward the second Torii. The path is covered with fine white gravel, with expanses of lawn on each side. Moving along this approach, you will hear the noise of traffic and crows cawing, and soon you will reach the second Torii. Behind the Torii there are four buildings, and behind them are softly running brooks. Listen carefully and enjoy the sound your feet make on the gravel, the sound of the gentle brooks and the pleasant birdsong. You will realize that the traffic noise has faded away, surrendering to sounds that are more pleasant.

The four buildings are plain yet noble looking, with curving cypress-shingled roofs and no walls. These structures are made for purifying oneself before ceremonies and for ceremonial playing and dancing, and also serve as a waiting place for the Emperor. The surface is unpainted and has turned black over time, giving a weather-beaten appearance that reflects the long history of the buildings. The lack of walls, columns and beams makes a frame for the trees around the structures, and the buildings gently merge into the natural surroundings.

Going along the banks of the tree-shaded brooks or sitting by the flowing water, one feels a comfortable coolness. The water flows so gently and smoothly that the brook bed can be seen very clearly. The water here has an inherent quality of colorlessness, and a whispering sound of slow flowing can be heard.

In general, paths in Japanese shrines are covered with white gravel. Stone paving is generally used in temples, but is rather rare in prestigious shrines. Both methods aim to keep shoes clean from mud, but there is a big difference in appearance. Pavement is fixed and artificial, but gravel is not fixed and looks fresher. Pavement may decay as time passes, while gravel will remain fresh. White gravel is closer to and more intimate with the natural surroundings than pavement.

The natural elements of this shrine are also appealing to the senses of hearing and touch: the sounds of water flowing, the singing of the birds and the coolness of the flowing water. Part of a shrine’s function is to worship the gods of nature and to pray for favorable crop growth. Natural elements such as wood, water and gravel are incorporated into the shrine naturally for worship of these gods. Relax, take in the natural elements and enjoy the experience with heightened senses.

November 11, 2008
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Nijo Castle

1 (9) 2 (8)Points of View
Originally, castles were made as military forts to protect feudal lords from the enemy, but with Nijo Castle this is not the case. This castle did not function as a fort, but was a temporary administrative office with attached residences. One was the residence where the Shogun (i.e. the General) used to stay when he came from Edo, the former name for Tokyo. The other was a conference center at which the Shogun met his followers, the feudal lords. The castle was built about 400 years ago when political power shifted from Kyoto to Edo and the Emperor’s influence on politics had weakened. It also served as a symbol of military leadership, reminding commoners that it was the Shogunate, the Tokugawa regime, and not the Imperial Court, that practically ruled the whole of Japan. As Nijo Castle was a place where the Shogun and his followers met, the architecture represented the structure of feudal society. Now, let’s look at the relationship between the architecture and the social hierarchy.

Nijo Castle consists of two buildings, Honmaru Palace and Ninomaru Palace. Honmaru Palace was located to the back of the site. The original had fired, and to replace it another aristocratic building was moved from the original site. Ninomaru Palace is still the original structure, and is located closer to the main entrance. This section deals mainly with Ninomaru Palace.

Entering the site and moving ahead on the expanse of white gravel for a while, you will see the excellent wooden gate, shingled with cypress bark and decorated with gold detail and wooden sculptures. Passing under the gate, you see the main building with its decorative roof. The area around the main building is covered with gravel, and lots of pine trees are planted to the front. The entrance is just as gorgeous as the gate. Let’s enter the main building.

The structure is composed of five houses connected by corridors. The first house, closest to the main entrance, housed the front desk and waiting room. Since some of the Shogun’s following came from far away, they may have needed to take a short rest and wait for the meeting there. In the second house the followers would formally greet one of Shogun’s representatives. The third house was made for waiting for an audience with the Shogun, and contained a room for meeting with the Shogun. In the fourth house, there are rooms where some of the most trusted followers met and talked with the Shogun. The fifth and final house was a temporary residence where the Shogun stayed and relaxed. As you move through the buildings, the function of the houses changes progressively from public to private.

Next, let’s take a look at the Fusuma papered sliding doors, which have different pictures painted on them for each house. In the waiting room of the first house, some of the fusuma show pictures of tigers. In the second and third houses, pine trees are featured, while pine trees, cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums are drawn in the fourth house. In the fifth house, simple sumi-e ink paintings are shown. In this way, by looking at the paintings on the sliding doors, one can understand the implication of the houses.

The third and fourth houses contain large rooms where the Shogun met with his followers. These rooms were designed to hold many official visitors, who would be seated separately according to rank.  The floor where the Shogun sat is higher than that of his followers. The height of the floor and the seating position indicated the difference in rank.

Now, let’s compare the third house with the fourth one. The third is similar to the fourth but is bigger, and because the fourth is smaller it has a quieter atmosphere. Paying attention to the pictures on the sliding doors, those in the third house are pine trees, while those in the fourth include cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums as well as pine trees. The fourth therefore has a milder atmosphere than the third, which is why the Shogun generally met with his regular followers in the third house but with his more familiar ones in the fourth.

Featuring buildings with gold leaf and decorative metal fittings, a large number of pine trees both inside and outside, many sliding doors with ornamental pictures, and different floor heights even within the same room, Nijo castle, resplendent with carvings and paintings, was effectively designed for showing off the power of the Shogun.

July 17, 2008
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Ginkakuji Temple

1 (3) 3Points of View
(1)Comparison of colors in nature
(2)Comparison of appearances in nature
(3)Comparison of the real world with the world of imagination

Usually, Japanese gardens are designed to combine the aesthetic elements of the natural and the artificial. As a matter of course, such gardens cannot be made simply by fencing off trees and grass that grow naturally, or by just placing rocks, sand and gravel. They are designed to be built by bringing out the advantages of nature and by setting out natural elements, trees, stones, bamboo etc. Now, let’s take a close and careful look at the garden, considering how the Japanese have taken advantage of natural elements.

On arriving at the front of Ginkakuji Temple, you see an approach forward, paved with glowing black stones. Over this pavement is a roofed gateway through which visitors pass, and then walk along a remarkable path covered with pristine white sand and surrounded by high, well-trimmed hedges. The darkness of the black stone pavement contrasts with the whiteness of the approach covered with simple sand, and the high hedges limit the range of view and movement. The walkway ends at an admission booth at the entrance. On entering this complex, you first glimpse part of the garden through a bell-shaped opening in the wall. In perspective, the whole garden is surrounded by many Japanese cedar trees on the hill, towering outside the garden. Although the garden is surrounded by a forest of tall cedar trees, it doesn’t have a sense of being hemmed in.

Two sculptured objects, immaculately formed from white sand, sit in the center of the garden surrounded by many curving pine trees. One of the objects looks like a truncated cone, while the other is a lower horizontal mound with a striped surface. Both of them are designed linearly, geometrically and simplistically in comparison to the surroundings, and look like conceptual works of art. Next to these objects are two wooden buildings with an older appearance, their surface black through oxidation over time. Standing behind these new modern objects, the age of the structures can be clearly seen.

What on earth are these sand mounds? The answer may occur to you when you close your eyes and imagine a fine night. On clear nights, the moon shines gently down on the mounds and the truncated cone in turn shines like the moon, the other like a pond. Fantastically, a moonlit night makes this illusory moon and pond come out in the garden along with the real ones, and when dawn breaks, they disappear.

Visitors cross a tiny stone bridge over the pond and walk up the stairs towards an open-view area. The soil along both sides of the stairs is covered with moss, and thick roots occasionally make a brief appearance through this carpet of moss. These roots cling to the earth tightly, while the moss wraps around the earth softly.

Reaching a vast viewing spot on the hillside, one can look down on the whole garden and a number of structures. Seen from up there, the garden seems to be covered with pine trees. The two buildings next to the sand objects stand side by side with their cypress-shingled, sharply-curved roofs.

Going down the stairs and looking at the outside, visitors can see bamboo fences at the border and a large array of vertical lines formed by Japanese cedar trunks over the fences.

Returning from the hill and looking at the whole garden, you can see the tall, straight trees standing outside the garden and the pines with twisty branches inside it, the two standing in contrast with each other. As the tall cedars outside are vertical and pruned quite high, it looks as if they stand as fences within the site. This may be why the garden looks larger than it really is.

The surface of this garden is partially covered with several varieties of moss, but seen from above seems to be covered with pine trees. The contrast of the moss with the pine trees; whether the garden is covered with one or the other varies according to the viewpoint.

A variety of natural elements that accent each other exist in this garden. The black stone pavement and the path covered with fine white sand, the wooden buildings and the white sand objects, the real and the illusory, the roots and the moss, the cedars and the pines, the artificial sand mounds and the surrounding nature. Comparing one object with its opposite brings out the character of each.

August 14, 2007
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Ishiyama-dera Temple

1 (5) 2 (4)Points of View
(1)Strangely shaped rocks in the precinct
(2)Elegant outline of the pagoda behind the rocks
(3)Forest seen from the veranda of the main hall

This temple is a little far from central Kyoto, and is not as famous as other temples for sightseeing. In general, though, the better temples tend to be located a little further from the center, which certainly applies in this case. The chief characteristic of the temple lies in the positioning of its buildings within nature and the way that nature is taken into the site of the temple. Now, let’s look at the tower and the main hall that together form the main structures of the complex.

Passing through the gate, you walk straight along a paved area. In autumn, the leaves on both sides of this path blaze vividly with reds and yellows. To the right of the path is a set of stairs leading to the main structures, which are located on a small hill.

After climbing the stairs, you see a series of large, rigid rocks directly ahead. These rocks were formed entirely by heat from inside the earth, and are carved with many wavy lines, the tracks of the earth’s gigantic forces. The temple’s name, Ishiyama-dera, comes from these magnificent rocks. The word ishi means rock or stone, yama means hill or mountain, and dera means temple. The rocks stand out magnificently in the center of the site as if they themselves had power and were worshiped.

Behind the rocks stands a pagoda, which is of a different style to the other five-story pagodas in this brochure. This is a two-story tower, and its upper body is very slim in contrast with the stouter lower level. Compared to the slimness of the upper body, the cypress-shingled roof of the lower part appears big yet sharp. This is one of Japan’s most beautiful pagodas featuring roofs shingled with cypress bark, and is stable and elegant.

The main hall is located on the hillside. At the gateway to it, visitors enjoy an impressive view ahead combining the columns and curved beams with the towering trees. Entering the building and looking outside through the wide doorway, you see the mountains between the trees. The numerous columns inside the hall complement the trees outside, so an open atmosphere pervades the inside of the building even though it is a little dark. As the hall is built on a hillside, one can feel closer to the forest and enjoy the great view.

With the metamorphic rocks at the center of the precinct, the combination of the bold rocks and the mild tower, and the main hall surrounded by the forest, this temple is made for enjoying nature.

February 7, 2007
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Kyoto Imperial Palace

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1 (7) 2 (6)Points of View
(1)Pictures on the papered sliding doors of the waiting room
(2)Eaves of the main buildings and the gate in front of this building
(3)Tatami and eaves of the ceremony hall

The palace was the residence of the Emperor, and many kinds of Imperial Court annual events were held here. For more than 1,000 years until 140 years ago the Emperor used to live here in Kyoto, and now lives in Tokyo. Incidentally, to see the palace visitors need to join the tour, in the same way as at the Katsura Imperial Villa and the Syugakuin Imperial Villa. Now, let’s look at this palace as a political device.

On entering the Kyoto Imperial Palace, you notice the vastness of the site and the relative newness of the buildings. These buildings were rebuilt about 160 years ago because of many big fires in Kyoto as well as in Tokyo, although their appearance remains the same as those of 1,200 years ago. Of the buildings you can see, this booklet covers the waiting room (known as the Shodaifu no ma), the main building (Shishin den) and the ceremony hall (Seiryo den).

At the beginning of this tour, you will see the waiting rooms, or Shodaifu no ma. In these three rooms, the pictures on the sliding doors are different for each room. Of these three, the one for the highest-ranking people is situated at the innermost location.As the rank of the people waiting would be lower, the room for them is closer to the entrance. In terms of pictures, tigers are painted on the doors of the room for high-ranking people, cranes for intermediate-ranking and cherry blossoms for low-ranking. The rank and pictures were closely connected.

Next, a look at the main building, or Shishin den. The corridors are painted a very bright red, stretching from both sides of the main building, and surround an area of ground covered with white gravel. This building is the heart of the palace, and stands magnificently. In the building, the most important ceremonies, just as important as the ceremony of succession to the throne, were held. Incidentally, people used different gates to enter the palace according to their rank. The main gate, called the Kenrei-mon gate, stands to the south of the main building. This is quite a grand structure, and forms the main access to the building. Only the highest class, i.e. the King, Queen and President, may use this gate.

Next, you can see the ceremony hall, or Seiryo-den. Originally, this building was used for daily life, but after the construction of another building known as the Otsune-goden, it became used for ceremonial purposes. Looking into this building from the outside, you can see tatami (floor mats made of a kind of straw) on the wooden floor. These tatami are thicker than usual, and the edging is richer as in those days the tatami also reflected ranking.

Looking up to the eaves and the top of the columns in the ceremony hall, you may find them simpler than those of the main hall or Shishin-den. This indicates that the position of the ceremony hall is lower than that of the main hall. The more complicated the upper parts of the pillars, the higher the position of the building.

The hierarchy is expressed in various ways: the pictures on the sliding doors in the waiting room, the gate on the outer wall, the type of tatami and the upper parts of the pillars. The same applies in Nijo Castle, the building for the military leader, but there is quite a difference between the two; in contrast with the ostentatiousness of Nijo Castle, the palace is quite simple as it inherits the tastes of the aristocrats of more than 1,200 years ago.

December 8, 2006
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Toji Temple

1 (8) 2 (7)Points of View
(1)A pagoda over the surrounding outer walls
(2)Rooftops in silhouette
(3)Strong presence of images

On a late winter afternoon after visiting Toji Temple, I came out of the main gate and headed to the bus stop. While waiting for the bus, I turned around to face the complex and saw the pagoda towering over the external clay walls. The structure, which is the highest five-story wooden pagoda in Japan, exerts a dominating presence, especially when seen over the walls. Within the temple, the appearance of the buildings and the images housed in the main hall gives a strong feeling of presence, quite unlike any other temple in Kyoto. Now, let’s go and see them.

Usually, visitors enter this complex from the south gate. Incidentally, in most temples the main gate is located on the south side. In the precinct, there are other buildings besides the large pagoda. A cloudless blue winter sky is cut along the curving outlines of the roofs, and their structures are sandwiched between the clear sky and the gravel on the ground, both of which enhance their presence.

Seen from the outside, the buildings appear to consist mainly of gray and silver tile roofs. As the buildings are wider, their massive roofs make their presence strongly felt. Roofs are used and designed to prevent rain and wind, but those of Japanese temples have something more than this inherent function. They have the refined beauty of curved roof lines, which is without doubt one of the main aesthetic appeals of old Japanese architecture. Carpenters have developed their skills and a range of technologies simply in pursuit of this kind of beauty. Roofs are therefore a very important factor both functionally and aesthetically.

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Looking up to the eaves from below, you can see how weight is conveyed from the roof to the columns. Rafters, arranged at a certain distance under the roof, bear the weight of the roof, and the weight is in turn transmitted onto brackets via purlins (a kind of beam under the rafters), and finally into columns via brackets. Tile roofs, rafters, purlins, brackets and columns are integrated organically and naturally. A clear sky in winter definitely offers the best enjoyment of the delicate, elegant outlines of the architecture as well as the integrated combination of structures.

In a large auditorium known as the Koudou, twenty-one statues are stored. For images of Buddha, this building is one of the most important houses in the whole of Japan. The images are vivid and full of energy, and have an outstanding feel even as works of art. Walking around in the auditorium, you can see various images with many different kinds of face. Some faces are quite modest, while others look rather angry. The images with modest faces are gods that save people; the angry ones are those angry with people who have committed crimes, and are for correcting their ways.

Most of the images were made when the temple was built more than 1,200 years ago, and are exactly the same as when they were made. Every statue is excellent and impressive, but instead of harmony between them, each creates a dominating presence. They are exactly like the football players of Real Madrid in Spain at their best.

In this complex, each presence surpasses harmony: the presence of the tower over the outer wall, that of the buildings in the site, and that of the statues in the auditorium. They have a sense of presence (a feature of temples in Nara, which is an older city than Kyoto) rather than harmony, which is one of Kyoto’s aesthetic features. This complex is one of the oldest in Kyoto, and was built 1,200 years ago in the days of ancient Japan, mainly for the purpose of protecting Kyoto city. The buildings have, however, been reconstructed since that time. Some temples in Kyoto were rebuilt 600 to 800 years ago at most, while others were rebuilt less than 400 years ago. The presence of this complex represents the essence of ancient times.

October 14, 2005
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Kiyomizu-dera Temple

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1 (6) 2 (5)Points of View
(1)The scenery from the stage of the main building
(2)The scenery from another building at the back
(3)The scenery from the bottom of the main building

This temple is the most popular for visitors to Kyoto. There are always lots of people in the temple, many of them taking pictures on the stage of the main structure. One of its greatest attractions is the continuous change of scenery as one moves around its precinct. Now, let’s take a look at these changes of scenery.

To access the temple, you go up a long gentle slope towards the temple from the bus stop. This narrow upward street is lined with many shops selling souvenirs, and is always full of tourists. The view is restricted because of the upward slope and the numerous shops. Moving up the hill for a while, the approach curves gradually, and then the view suddenly opens up. A gate, a tower and many stairs leading to the gate dramatically appear against the forested mountains.

Climbing these stairs and the slope that follows, you reach the ticket booth. After buying a ticket, you pass through dim corridors and reach the slight darkness of the main structure. As you approach the stage, the scenery opens up to give a good view of it and you can see the well-known stage. There is no roof over the extended veranda, and its floor slopes slightly towards the outside. Standing on the floor of the stage, you can see the rich forest near the mountain to the left and the whole of Kyoto city to the right. The spectacular view is the highlight of this temple.

Leaving the stage and walking along a little, you reach another building, the Okuno-in. Here, you can enjoy a better look at the scenery combining the whole city, the overall structure of the main temple and the surrounding nature. Standing on this veranda, you see that the roof of the main temple is massive, that one side of the structure stands on a vertical rock face, and that the stage of the main building is supported by many pillars and beams. The rock face is almost as high as a four-story building.

After enjoying the scenery from this stage, you go down a zigzag slope where you can also enjoy cherry blossoms in the spring and autumn leaves in the autumn.

Incidentally, the stage of the main hall was used not only for taking in the magnificent vista, but was also originally designed and built for projecting court dancing and music towards heaven, towards the deity. Fantastically, all dancing and music was only for the sake of the deity rather than for the people.

The main gate and the tower that appear suddenly after the walk up the souvenir shop-flanked street, the impressive panoramic vista from the veranda after moving through the dim corridors and the inside of the main hall, the sweeping view of the main hall from Okuno-in over the ravine, and the change of view from Okuno-in down to the slope. Moving around the site, the dramatic change in scenery feels like a trip in itself. This is the best attraction in Kiyomizu-dera Temple.