Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kyoto: Typhoons and Zen Gardens

Monday morning started out with finding out what had happened during the night. Mark’s phone had gone off with a notification sound several times during the night with a text message in Japanese. We found out later that this is an emergency warning system that goes to all cell phones in Japan. 

Later in the day, we learned of the extent of the damage of the typhoon. Over 200,000 people were forcibly evacuated from their homes in the Kyoto area. When we went to the train station that morning to catch a train to our first destination, we discovered that the trains were not running due to the tremendous amount of rain that had fallen during the night. I think I read somewhere that it was the most rain that had ever fallen during a 24-hour period in Kyoto since they began keeping meteorological records.

Courtyard of a sub-temple down the way from the Shunko-in Temple

We had intended to take a train to see if we could partake in an English-language Zen meditation session and lecture at Shunko-in Temple in northwest Kyoto. We were particularly interested in this because the leader of the sessions and the assistant head of the temple is an LGBT rights advocate and a firm supporter of marriage equality, which struck us as highly unusual for Japan. Unfortunately, because we had to take the bus, we arrived too late.

We wandered around the temple complex, which is associated with Myoshinji Temple, but I was somewhat disappointed in that experience. In contrast to other areas where we had been, the signs – everything – were solely in Japanese (except outside the Shunko-in Temple). Plus people were very busy cleaning up after the typhoon. It seemed to us that this area of Kyoto had suffered more than the area in which our inn is located.

One place that we did go into was a garden in the complex. Here we saw the most graphic example yet of the homage that is paid to Jizo, the bodhisattva who looks after the souls of children who have been aborted, are stillborn, or have died. As Mark said as we left, it was kind of creepy.

Parents leave children's toys so that Jizo can find their children in hell and save them

From the Myoshinji Temple complex, we walked up to see the Ryoanji Zen Temple. The notable aspect of this temple is its world-famous Zen rock garden, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 

Stone bridge on grounds of Ryoanji Temple. Notice the leaves that are starting to turn.

A lone maple leaf that had fluttered down onto the edge of the garden below our feet

After seeing Ryoanji, we headed by bus back to our inn in central Kyoto, arriving back about 3:30 in the afternoon. From there we went to the neighborhood sento (public bath). Mark had been inquiring after a restaurant that served katsu don buri, a pork dish with egg, onion and rice that he remembered having in his childhood in Tokyo. Whenever he had asked about it, he had been greeted with surprised frowns. It was definitely a “low-class food.” But he found one right next door to our sento, and that is the place to which we returned for dinner that night.

Umbrellas hanging out to dry in front of our inn on Monday afternoon

Today's Engrish-ism

Sign outside a temple complex

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