Friday, March 9, 2012

kyoto: wood and hair

Woke up and decided to tackle Kyoto on my own. Since the train station is in Central Kyoto, I decided to take the 10-15 minute walk to check out the Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji, which together are the head temples of Shin Buddhism. Both of these temple complexes are free which was a motivating factor to check them out since practically every temple or touristy thing in Japan requires an entrance fee! I'm so use to attractions being free in Taiwan that it makes me cringe to have to pay entrance fees.

The Nishi Hongwanji' wasn't really interesting. Besides it being a massive size and pretty to look at with all that wooden architecture, there wasn't much going for it. It had also started to rain which sucked since the whole courtyard is dirt so I was forced to walk only on the stone pathways. They also had a bunch of construction going on so that and the rain really annoyed me and impeded my picture taking process of this place.

On the maps Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji look like they are right across from each other. But don't let the maps fool you because what they don't show is all the small little alleys that separate the two temple complexes. I just headed directly across from Nishi Honganji and kept in that direction while navigating the small little streets.

The most noteworthy thing at Higashi Honganji is the hair rope. I had such a hard time finding the place it was in. I kept walking past what looked like a huge construction site/building that was slabbed dab in the middle of the complex but didn't go in because it looked off limits and only workers were entering. Later after walking around in the rain and going to ask for directions twice I finally walked into the construction site and there the hair rope! I guess they didn't think it was necessary to remove it out of the building even though there was all this construction going on...

This is just one of the 53 hair ropes they have that were made from female followers. It weights 827 lbs and is 225 ft long. Ordinary ropes back in the day weren't strong enough to transport and hang the beams used in the buildings and so they included the hair to make it stronger. So crazy and to see so much hair all together is freaky. If you're short on time I wouldn't recommend going to either of these temples, there are definitely way better places in Kyoto to spend your precious time. However if you want some culture and don't have any money then these places are perfect!

The Details
Higashi Honganji
Karasuma Shichi-jō Agaru, Shimogyō-ku, Kyoto 600-8505, Japan
tel: +81-75-371-9181
hours: March-October 5:50am - 5:30pm; November-February 6:20am - 4:30pm 
website (english)

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