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Japan Mar 2011 Day 3 – 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

Kyoto - 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!

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

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.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

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.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

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…

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

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.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

Some of them are somewhat familiar looking to those we would find in Buddhist temples, like this which bear resemblance to  彌勒 miroku.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

while others are totally bizzare-looking…

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

this one plays an electric guitar!

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

and this with cool shades looks like a charismatic preacher!

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

One of those mysterious fellas from Easter Island.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

A lot of them come in pairs, some drinking, some playing chess and some just in moments of deep embrace…

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

行住坐卧德始 “Morality in everywhere you go and everything you do” – Food for thought indeed…

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

then it began to snow again, sprinkling an air of mysticism around the place.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

some have woolen caps to keep their shiny skulls warm.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

while some just hug and brave the elements together.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

names engraved on the back of each sculpture, not sure if they are the sculptors, or devotees who donated these works.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

these were older stone monuments with a longer history, preserved before the rebuilding some 30 years ago.

Kyoto - 嵐山 愛宕念仏寺 Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji

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…

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19 responses

  1. Wow, I am so envious of your trip to japan! Everything looks great there, but umm I think its a childhood thing, but some of the stoneworks freak me out. haha

    April 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yeah… the stone sculptures do look quite daunting don’t they? Actually when we stepped into the temple initially, I constantly felt being watched. I turned around a few times and felt quite queasy about it. But that feeling went away after sometime and a profound sense of tranquility followed. No shit about that. Spirits or fairies or whatever might be out there, it certainly made the place really magical.

      April 26, 2011 at 12:02 am

      • Shanna

        Dear Alan
        I love your pictures about the sculptures in Japan so much!!!
        Is it possible to use them for me – for my starting business, for homepage and facebook stuff or for folders???
        Can you write me a email, so we can talk about ist.
        Kind regards
        Shanna

        October 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      • Alan (travellingfoodies)

        Hi Shanna, I’m sorry but I cannot consent to your request.

        October 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm

  2. The stone sculptures look A-MAZING. I like the first photo especially. And I like how the moss looks like hair for some of the sculptures :)

    And maybe the number differs because as you climb up and down, you’re probably too exhausted and cock-eyed alr lol ;p

    April 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha I think you are right about the cock-eyed part! So much to look at!

      April 26, 2011 at 12:03 am

  3. the pictures are amazing alan! i want to travel there one day too. lucky you :)

    April 26, 2011 at 12:06 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      thanks jean! Japan is really a very beautiful place

      April 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

  4. Jeannie

    Just view all your Japan photos and am so captivated by them all, the food, the scenaries and of course your great descriptions help heaps.:D

    April 26, 2011 at 12:11 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks Jeannie! more to come though… hope you dont get bored of the photos!

      April 26, 2011 at 10:33 am

  5. hi alan, these pictures remind me of the terracota warriors in china. You mean you landed in this place by accident? mystical to you and mysterious to me! there are 1 or 2 that looks pretty scary to me..

    April 26, 2011 at 1:29 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      oh yeah! I’d visited Xi’an more than 10 years back and went to the Qin Emperor’s tomb no. 1 where the terracottas are on exhibit. Those are definitely more imposing! My bad for not giving some kinda size perspective; these stone sculptures are barely waist high. And some of them are quite kawaii ne!

      We got to know this place through some reviews over the internet, especially from Tripadvisor. So it was a planned trip. :)

      April 26, 2011 at 10:37 am

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