The walk from Narita station is pleasant in itself: the Omotesando street not straight, not flat, and has several curves. It also counts many shops and restaurants, and makes for an entertaining walk. Soon enough, on the left hand side, the entrance to Narita-san Shinsho-ji temple complex reveals itself. It might be hard to believe after seeing the relatively modern town of Narita, but this temple was founded in 940 and is therefore over 1,000 years old. Walking the stone stairs up brings you to a small pond with a stone turtle, statues places on rocks around it, and another set of steps before you reach the main plaza of the temple complex. Right in front of you, the Great Main Hall dominates the square, but you first pass an incense burner. Here, people come to wash themselves with the smoke of the incense. It is supposed to clean, but also to heal pain, and therefore, people often fan smoke towards the body part that hurts.
From here, my attention was drawn not so much by the Great Main Hall, but rather the Three Storied Pagoda on my right hand. With elegantly curved roofs, bright colours under the roof, red on the wooden walls and gold on several parts of the temple, it certainly stands out. The late afternoon sunlight further added to the pagoda radiating warmth and serenity. Close by, I saw a library which unfortunately was closed, and a separate building with a huge bell. From here, I walked towards Prince Shotoku Hall, which was erected only in 1992, dedicated to the historical figure believed to have introduced Buddhism into Japan. Shiny orange and green, I especially liked the surrounding wall of the building which has several rows of gold-coloured decorative elements. From here, I walked into the park belonging to Narita-san temple, which turned out to hold several surprises. There are stone stelae, small statues, some of which were dressed in red clothes, and stone pagodas.
From the upper part of the temple grounds of Narita-san, I took one of several paths leading down. It led me to the different atmosphere of well tended Japanese gardens. Carefully placed rocks, bushes and trees that were all well kept, and stone pagodas near the ponds in which I saw the inevitable carps made for a serene setting of a different kind. With much less people here, many quiet corners, and small waterfalls, this part of the temple grounds oozes tranquility of a very mundane kind. Walking west, I saw an enormous temple on top of a hill and ended up climbing the stairs. This is the Great Pagoda of Peace; erected in 1984, and a time capsule beneath the pagoda holds prayers and messages of world leaders for world peace. From here, I walked past the old Komyodo and Gakudo Halls with some dark brown wooden tablets before returning to the square of the Great Main Hall again. The sun was now gone, and it was time to leave the temple grounds and enjoy a Japanese dinner.
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