Japan Mar 2011 Day 3 – 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji
Day 3 in Japan started early, checking out of the hotel in Osaka before daylight and making our way to Kyoto. The weather was biting cold and even started to snow! Alas everything went on rather smoothly. After checking in at Kyoto Kokusai Hotel opposite Nijo castle, we headed westwards for Arashiyama. Our first stop was somewhat off the beaten track. A rather quiet temple within the hills of Sagano, 愛宕念仏寺 Otaginenbutsu-ji.
Again, more of a photo log than a writing post. Enjoy!
From Sagano-Arashiyama station on the Keifuku line, we took a taxi to this some temple tucked in the outskirts of 嵐山 Arashiyama, a small neighbourhood west of Central Kyoto. Unlike the UNESCO gazetted 天龍寺Tenryuu-ji near Arashiyama station, this little monastery is hardly visited by tourists. In fact, this placer is hardly known to the Japanese! When we were there, we barely saw a handful of other people, and none of them were 外人 gai-jin (foreigners) like us.
Nio 仁王 statues shot through a wire mesh, guarding the gates, likening those we saw at Toshogu in Nikko. But I liked these better somewhat.
Otaginenbutsu-ji is known for their rakan stone sculptures, all donated by devotees during the rebuilding of this place barely 30 years ago. More than 1200 all in all, these statues are quite a sight to behold. The snow, the quiet tranquility, the cold and the moss-enshrouded stone figurines all contributed to the somewhat mystical experience we felt when we were here. Very magical indeed…
We took time to stroll down the aisles, admiring the stoneworks, mostly done by amateurs who donated to the refurbishment of the temple. No two are alike; all of them different with unique poses, facial expressions and even the aura they exuded.
Some of them are somewhat familiar looking to those we would find in Buddhist temples, like this which bear resemblance to 彌勒 miroku.
while others are totally bizzare-looking…
this one plays an electric guitar!
and this with cool shades looks like a charismatic preacher!
One of those mysterious fellas from Easter Island.
A lot of them come in pairs, some drinking, some playing chess and some just in moments of deep embrace…
行住坐卧德始 “Morality in everywhere you go and everything you do” – Food for thought indeed…
then it began to snow again, sprinkling an air of mysticism around the place.
some have woolen caps to keep their shiny skulls warm.
while some just hug and brave the elements together.
names engraved on the back of each sculpture, not sure if they are the sculptors, or devotees who donated these works.
these were older stone monuments with a longer history, preserved before the rebuilding some 30 years ago.
Though not the most accessible places for sure, we were glad we visited Otaginenbutsu-ji. The experience is something we’d never experienced elsewhere and probably never will again. The place is quite a universe on its own, cut off from the outside world, in a deep trance. Some statues were so vividly carved, I’m pretty sure they would spring to life when no one’s around and start talking to one another, each having a great story to tell. A local myth tells of the statues walking around as well! In fact, if one were to count the sculptures as one scales the place, and recount them again on the way down, the number is said to differ! Truth or tale, you tell me…