Monday, November 4, 2013

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺)

I've been getting a bit unlucky with temple and shrine renovations: Chion-in, Byodoin, Ujikami and today Kiyomizu-dera.  2013: The Year of the Repair.  I suppose this sort of thing is necessary to preserve buildings that are hundreds of years old.

Kiyomizu-dera, like the gates of Fushimi Inari, had piqued my interest based on a photo I'd seen. I was actually so excited to see this temple that when I arrived an hour before closing a few weeks ago I decided I would come back when I could spend more time.

Built in 1633 this temple literally hangs from the side of Mt. Otowa in Higashiyama.  The kakezukuri (overhanging) style of the main hall is perhaps an architectural predecessor to the modernist cantilevered buildings of the mid-20th Century à la Frank Lloyd Wright.  It is all the more impressive when one considers it was constructed without using a single nail.

The unusually large number of kimono-clad female visitors must have something to do with the legend that true love awaits them if they can manage to traverse the distance between a pair of temple stones with their eyes closed.  A crowd of beautiful, young women dressed in their best kimonos is one I don't mind battling.

I tried to find the silence in the throng of tourists and listen to the rain.  I tried to go at my own pace.  I watched with great interest mothers instructing their children how to kneel, pray and strike a giant pot-cum-gong.  I studied the twisted trees.

Still.  I've found there are temples that you move through with the crowd, and there are temples where you pause and contemplate, alone.  The movement is usually unmoving and the resting is consistently arresting.

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