Higashi Honganji

Well, sad to say, but after that lovely autumn day in Ohara, our plans went awry.

We had thought it would be best to spend our last night in Japan in Nagoya so on the day before our return home, we left our glorious room in the Grand Prince Kyoto Hotel. Our plan was to stash our bags in Kyoto Station and do a last bit of sighseeing before catching an afternoon train to Nagoya, but there was not a vacant locker to be found. Somehow I had missed knowing that it was a holiday weekend in Japan. I guess that and the fact that it was prime autumn leaf viewing season explained all the expensive hotel rooms.

After abandoning all hope of finding an empty locker, I consulted my guidebook. There was a large temple just a couple of blocks up the street, and it looked like there was a park next to it. I hoped we could find a comfortable bench where one us could sit with the luggage while the other toured the temple so we trudged in that direction. Unfortunately, the park was devoid of benches, and Walt was coming down with the awful cold that would plague both of us through most of the holiday season so he opted to perch on the edge of a fountain while I crossed the street to visit Higashi Honganji.

There was a lot of construction going on so I had to walk through a sort of tunnel to get to the temple. I emerged into a courtyard full of bustling people attending some sort of event. The massive Founder's Hall, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, was quite impressive.

The temple actually has another huge building called the Amida Hall, but that is undergoing restoration. This is the gate that stands across from that hall.

I hesitated by some steps that led up to a maze of construction work. All the signs were in Japanese. A British monk approached, and we had a pleasant chat. He said he lived in Tokyo and always came to Kyoto to help with the ceremony that was taking place. It was the 750th Memorial Service for Shinran, the founder of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism. He assured me that it was OK to proceed up the steps.

Inside, I passed this temple bell. There was also a rope on display - one of 53 that was made to lift the huge beams used in the reconstruction of the two halls that took place in 1895. Female followers of Shinran had donated their hair to strengthen the hemp rope that was used at that time.

I watched a bit of the ceremony, then walked around the outside of the Founder's Hall. On the other side I came upon this sign which seemed to convey a message more profound than its intent.

After awhile we trudged our way back to Kyoto Station where we sat on the steps listening to American Christmas music and watching people take pictures of each other in front of the huge tree.

I also rode the long series of escalators to the top of the station where you can look out over the city.

Finally it was time to board the train and return to Nagoya.