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Japan: Jingo-ji temple

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Jingo-ji temple | Japan | Asia

[Visited: March 2016]

Walking up the valley from Kyoto turned out a little disappointing, as there was a lot of traffic even on this Sunday morning. As soon as we take a trail away from the road, we get what we were looking for: walking through a quiet Japanese village surrounded by tree-covered hills. Some trees have just started blossoming. We walk down towards the Kiyotaki river, cross the bridge, and walk up a flight of stone stairs at the other side of the river, to the entrance of Jingo-ji. Across the valley, we sometimes hear cars and motorbikes racing on the road, but otherwise, we are surrounded by sheer peace. There is hardly anyone around, and once we are inside, it feels like we have the temples to ourselves. Jingo-ji turns out to be a large complex, spread out over the slopes of Mount Takao.

Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Kondo hall seen from up front - the gold hall of the Jingo-ji temple complex

Established back in 824, Jingo-ji temple has been destroyed by fire and war, and rebuilt every time. The Buddhist monk Kukai was involved in turning this temple into one belonging to the Shingon sect, and it is considered one of the three most prominent esoteric Buddhist temples in Japan. After taking a look at the buildings around the open space behind the Romon gate, we walk on to another, smaller open space in the woods where we find two wooden halls, Godai-do and Bishamon-do, unfortunately, both of them are closed. We scale more stairs to reach the main temple of the complex: Kondo. the Golden Hall. Built in 1935, this is the main hall of the Jingo-ji temple complex. Inside, we find a few people, modestly praying, walking past the Yakushi Nyorai statue, also called Medicine-Buddha. There is much more to see here: small statues, books, the bowl of fruit patiently waiting at the feet of Buddha, and a side scene where a sitting Buddha is guarded by menacing guardians with weapons.

Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Statue of Buddha guarded by a plethora of fearsome looking warriors, next to the statue of Yakushi Nyorai

We take yet another flight of stone stairs to the highest part of the complex: the Two Storied Pagoda. Built in the same year as Kondo, the pagoda is unfortunately closed so we have to do with an outside view. After retracing our steps, we walk to a platform which looks out over the Kiyotaki valley. Three Japanese people are busy throwing kawarakenage, small clay discs, into the valley below. It is supposed to help getting rid of your karma, and the Japanese make sure to take pictures of every single try - and buy even more discs when their pile has disappeared. It looks like fun and something to try, and we both hurl the kawarakenage as far as we can into the valley below. The slope of this mountain must be full of disks! We had back, have a closer look at the wooden bell tower, and are just in time to catch the hourly bus back to Kyoto - a big contrast with the tranquillity of Jingo-ji!

Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Wooden gate inside the Jingo-ji temple complex
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Stone stairs that need to be climbed to reach Jingo-ji temple
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Small stone Buddha statue on the slopes of Jingo-ji temple complex
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Close-up of a wooden door at the Kondo, or Great Hall
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Stone steps connecting Kondo hall to the Two Storied Pagoda at the highest level of the Jingo-ji complex
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Small wooden bell tower of the Jingo-ji temple complex
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Small vermillion and white building on the slopes of the hill leading to the highest temple of Jingo-ji
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Detailed view of a wooden panel with text on the outside of a building in the Jingo-ji complex
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Godai-do and Bishamon-do seen from above
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Godai-do, one of the wooden buildings on a plateau below the gold hall, Kondo
Picture of Jingo-ji temple (Japan): Japanese woman throwing a clay disk, or kawarakenage, into Kiyotaki valley below to get rid of her bad karma

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