Monday, January 4, 2021

The gardens of Tofukuji temple

 The important building in Tofukuji temple has 4 gardens designed by a modern garden designer, Shigemori Mirei.  

Shigemori Mirei was not originally a garden designer. He studied Japanese art, tea ceremony and flower arrangement in his early time. Then he went all over japan to conduct on-site research of all the traditional Japanese gardens and compiled the books of Japanese gardens. While doing this, he realized that Japanese gardens were an art. They abstract the nature and express it three-dimensionally. In a sense, it is something like a sculpture. Keeping classic art as a foundation. he aimed at eternal modernism

Let's see the gardens.

The South garden.
This set of stones represents the ancient Chinese belief. What is special here is the way of placing stones. Mirei laid 6 meter-long stone here. He created the wonderful stone-set keeping the best balance with standing stones. 

The moss shows 5 great mountains in Kyoto. The line between the moss and pebbles goes gently, which shows the different atmosphere of the stone set. 

The West garden shows a traditional Japanese pattern called Ichimatsu with white sand and azaleas. The moss continues from the south garden to this garden.

The north garden.

It has a smaller Ichimatsu pattern. When you see this garden, you will find that the left side has a clear and neat pattern but as it goes to the right, the pattern becomes blur and disappears at the end. This is affected by the technique of Japanese old paintings, which makes variety by making the border blur.

These stones represent the seven stars in the sky. It is unlikely that  the factor of constellation is used for the garden. In addition, these stones were used as cornerstones of the old lavatory.

Why Mirei used the old materials? It is because of zen teaching. When he designed the gardens, he was told to use the old materials to eliminate waste.

I can say that you will enjoy a little different but traditional zen garden here.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Tofukuji temple

 This temple has a long history dating back to 1236. One of the court nobles, Kujo Michiie, founded this. Tofukuji was named after the great temples in Nara, Todaiji and Kofukuji. It uses a part of the names. 
Todaiji in Nara has a large Buddha statue, and Tofukuji also had a large Buddha statue in the past. Unfortunately, because of the fire, we can no longer see it .

The large precinct has many buildings such as an old lavatory, Sanmon gate, Hatto hall, and hojo builging. But most famous here is a valley covered with maple trees.

In the 15th century, the temple has a monk who was very good at painting. Due to his fine works, the shogun asked his what he wanted. He requested  to remove all the cherry trees in the temple because it is a nuisance in zen training. For that reason, this temple doesn't have any cherry trees but maples.
Now they attract many tourists from japan and overseas.

The monk who studied Buddhism in China brought tea seeds back to Japan, and planted his home town in Shizuoka. Today, we can enjoy very nice tea from Shizuoka thanks to him. He was the first monk of this temple.
( The monk who brought tea seeds to Japan first in our history is Yosai, a different monk, Yosai brought the seeds and planted in the North of Kyoto )

Sanmon gate which has three entrances is the typical gate seen in zen temple. Each of the entrances is said to show three ways to attain enlightenment. the gate of emptiness, the gate of no thought ( prejudice), the gate of no desire. 
What is interesting is that the pillars have square halls. I heard they are  for taking a balance of all the pillars. 

The zen hall is the oldest in Japan. It still has many monks for training occasionally. 

The old lavatory is large so that about 100 monks could use it at a time  in those days. 
The sanitary system here was amazing. Because many monks were accommodated  and had their lives together, bad diseases must not occur. 

In Hatto hall, you can see dragon painting on the ceiling. It is painted by a modern artist, Domoto Insho.  When he painted, he needed a large amount of Chinese ink. For him, many monks made a line putting a suzuri ink container and rubbed a ink bar to make ink for him.

Please enjoy the movie of Tofukuji temple

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Fushimi Inari Shrine

 The Origin here dates back to 711 before the capital was moved to Kyoto. 

The people believed Inari Mountain was a sacred mountain. The strong clan, Hata, created a shrine here. It has been loved by local people since then. Now it is very popular because of the consecutive rad gates called Torii gate. But these Torii gates began to appear here much later.

This says Fushimi Inari shrine. Inari means rice or rice bag, so this shrine is specialized  in bumper crops. Next to this,   you will see a fox statue with rice plant in the mouth. 
A fox is a messenger of the Shinto deity or Kami here.  There are four kinds in the foxes'  mouth.

A ball for treasure ball,  Rice, a key for rice ware house  and a paper scroll for wisdom.

In old times in spring, foxes came out of the mountain to seek food. But when the people saw them, as they are from the sacred mountain, people believed that they must be a messenger of Kami.

You can see the mountain behind the shrine building. It is a part of the shrine. In this way, the precinct is very large covering all the mountain.
All the gates including the gate tower are donations by the worshippers.  After two big red gates, you will come to the two storied gate. It is also a donation, donated by then ruler in 16th century who united the nation after the war time in Japan.
He wished the recovery of his mother's illness.

On the side of the second red gate,  this place can be seen.  This is the place for a car.  Some people who bought a car bring their cars here to ask the Shinto priest to ( in a sense ) purify a car so that they will have no accident.

We make a wish in front of the main hall. the benefit of this shrine is of course rice harvest, but recently many people make a wish for business prosperity. It is also a benefit here because of the merchant in samurai time. ( His business went successful after worshipping to Inari shrine)

The red gates started to be donated since around this time.
We believe that to walk through the gate is to realize the wish.
Anyway, walking through the consecutive gates produces special atmosphere
This red gate tunnel goes to the top of the mountain, you need 1 hour and 40 min to go and come back. 

At the first station called Okunosha, you can see the map of the mountain. Even in the court noble time, the people walked up to the top. We can tell thanks to the diary kept by a female writer.
It seemed tough for her to walk all the way.

Here please watch the video I made.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


 Amanohashidate is one of three scenic spots in Japan. First, Please see this video, short introduction

Amanohashidate means the bridge to heaven. It appears in Japanese mythology.

A Shinto diety, ( kami ), Izanagi, put a ladder between heaven and earth. However, while he was taking a nap, the ladder fell down and became Amanohashidate.

It is 3.5 kilometer sand bar with 20 meter to 170 meter width. It has about 5000 to 8000 pine trees. 

In the middle of this sand-bar, there is a small shrine, Amanohashidate shrine.

It's a power-spot of love matching♪

Next to the shrine, you will find a small well. It is a well. Though it is located between the sea, the water here is not sea water. 

After arriving at JR station of Amanohashidate, at the beginning, there is a temple which enshrines Monju bosatsu or Buddhism statue of wisdom.

When you worship here, you will be given wisdom.

In the temple, you will see cute small fans hanging from the pine tree branches.

This is fortune telling card called OMIKUJI. Usually omikuji is a thin paper card. After knowing our fortune, and if it is not a good one, we fold it into small piece and tie to the tree. But here, it is a fan, and looks very cute.

At the sea-side, you will see a stone ring, it's a wisdom ring. Please walk around it three times, and you will gain wisdom. Also you will see a turning bridge which turns around when a boat goes out to the sea. 

To go across to the other side of Amanohashidate, you can use a rental bike or a boat. You need one hour to walk through. Any way is fine as you like.  When you reach the other side, let's visit Moto Ise Kono shrine. The shrine has long history. It is said that, before the ancestor of The Emperor, Amaterasu, came to be enshrined in Ise-Jingu shrine, she was enshrined a couple of places as the daughter of then Emperor traveled looking for a appropriate place. Amaterasu was enshrined here for a certain period. Of course it is still enshrined here along with the other three kamis.

So it has similar air here as Ise Jingu shrine.
Behind the shrine, there is a cable car station. Let's go up to the hill park
Here , you can command a very nice view of Amanohashidate.  But there is a cetain way to view. Please stand against the sea with your legs open, and bend over your body forward.  Then please view Amanohashidate between your legs. This way is called Matanozoki, literary --between your leg- viewing 

You will see this !!
It is like a bridge to heaven. That's why..
By the way, this is the newspaper article when the way to view was awarded Ig-Nobel prize in 2016, showing how to view
Please enjoy the nice view !!

Monday, July 6, 2020

A quiet moss garden in Arashiyama

The rainy season shows the beautiful green garden with moss here.
Though it is a small temple, when you stand in the garden and view the moss, it soothes  your feeling.

Dating back to Court Noble time in 12th century, there was a beautiful dancer/singer, called Shirabyo-shi. equivalent to a current pop singer and dancer. Her name is Gio.

One day, she visited the most powerful man, the top of Sumurai. Taira Kiyomori.
She wanted him to see her dance . Her wish was realized and he saw her dance. and really liked/loved her

Then, she started to live with him in his palace.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Ninja!

This is the ninja !

Many people who visit Japan are interested in " NINJA"
Maybe the first encounter of Ninja is in a movie or an animation film, isn't it?

Just a couple of years ago, the people who want to have such a special experience had to go to so-called Ninja village, for example, Iga Ninja village or Koga ninja village.
But I have good news !

You can enjoy Ninja workshop in KYOTO !
It is in the building in downtown. in Kyoto

When you enter the room, the real descendant of Iga ninja will welcome you with a smile.

 Though he is the sixth generation of Iga,  he said he was born in an ordinally family. He learned everything about Ninja from the other instructor of Ninja.

According to him, he says he is the sixth generation but he has older generation  but he could not make sure.

Please look his finger and you will see something on his finger This is for attack.
The movie usually exaggerates the action of the ninja, but basically they work for collecting the necessary information for their lords.
Almost all the weapons were used for protecting themselves when they were attacked or their secret mission was found.

These are something like spikes. You can easily imagine it is very hard to walk on them.  They are natural seeds and completely dried. I touched them and found it  very hard, Of course I don't want to walk on them

He is throwing Ninja stars

Can you find one sword different from the others?
Samurai sword is a little bent to fight in an open space to cut somebody
However, Ninja's weapons are used in various ways, making most of them. For instance, the one on the top of the shelf  is not bent. and has a square  brim.
The brim is used to step on  for climbing the wall. in addition to protecting their hand
The tip of the sword case can be taken off, and used for the breathing tube when in the water.
The string can be used for wielding to intimidating and securing the space between him and the enemy.

In this way, you can enjoy the several ways of lesson or experience there.

When we left there, answering my question, he said
The ninja worked on a family unit basis. They are something like  contract workers in this modern society 
For their contract, they showed loyalty to the lord for the future business. And all the samurai lord hired ninja to collect information and use for strategy in the war.
I have seen the scene in which a ninja jumps onto the roof or jumps off from the high wall.
The sixth generation said, in those days, people did not train themselves to jump higher or in the way ninja did. So when the people saw the ninja leaping off from the top of the wall, it looked like a superman ! It is really persuasive 

Ninja Dojo

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Zen cuisine

There are some zen cuisine restaurants in Kyoto
But my recommendation is this!!

This is the entrance.

You will have zen cuisine in a private room.
The dish is served one by one.
You will have a quite atmosphere just enjoying the nice cuisine.

Please walk this path to the entrance door


This is the entrance

deep fried vegetables

This is not daikon but potato, can you see/

Please enjoy dinner while enjoying the flowers outside

This is made of sweet potato and somen noodles

All served here is made from vegetables
The soup is also taken from seaweed, Kobu.

Kanga-an( 5 min walk from the station Kuramaguchi, Karasuma line )
Reservation is required ( from 2 people )
lunch 5000 yen / person