Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fall Foliage and a Giant Buddha

Thanks to yet another mid-week Japanese holiday, Nana and I just dozed our way through a much-needed four-day weekend. But we didn't spend the whole weekend catching up on work and sleep: instead, on Sunday morning, we joined a few co-workers for a half-day trip to Kidonanzoinmae, a little hamlet up in the hills famous for its huge reclining Buddha.

The Buddha was surrounded by little statues, each with a different posture and facial expression . . .
. . . as well as what appear to be urns, each marked with a day of the year.
I wish I could tell you more about the ritual significance of these things, but most of the tourist information at Nanzoin was in Japanese. Though running the temple's website through Google Translate does reveal at least a little bit about the site: the statue was built in honor of some sacred relics the temple received as gifts from Buddhist communities in Nepal and Burma.

Luckily, although there was little English to be found, the gentlemen below were well versed in the universal language of expats abroad, aka Repeated Emphatic Gesturing, and were able to explain to us (and co-worker/neighbor Dayle) how to say a Buddhist prayer.
Nana lights a votive candle.
Nana sticks some incense (joss sticks) in a vessel full of sand.
Apparently, the key ingredients in Buddhist prayers are candle-wax burns and second-hand incense smoke.

The Buddha wasn't the town's only attraction, though: it's just part of a complex of temples and shrines strewn across a mountainside--and connected by a network of trails and caves. There wasn't really any signage in English, so I can't really do anything but let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

 This tunnel was full of incense smoke from a small shrine cut into the wall.
 Most of the hillside was covered with sugi, or Japanese cedar, the national tree of Japan.
The Japanese really have a thing for turtles. You can find a turtle pond in almost any Japanese temple.
 We weren't sure if this guy was real at first. He was really still, and his legs were sticking our at such an unnatural angle. (Yes, the big one is fake.)
 Fall colors on the hillside.
 Looks like they dress some of their statues up for the winter.
 Part of the temple complex was a kind of elaborate garden built on the hillside, with streams and waterfalls and bridges. It was almost like a temple playground--very beautiful, and lots of fun to explore.
This is what a Japanese-style temple looks like when it's new. Eventually, that fresh wood will weather to a grayish brown.
 This guy seems to be on fire for some reason.
Many of the little statues had these donation buckets in front of them. Anyone have any idea what they're for?
 More statues bundled up for the winter.
 This little shrine was tucked away in a little grotto at the top of the complex. That's a waterfall in the background, and there's a very small cave to the left you can walk through, with a chain to help you climb out the top.
 A shot of the shrine complex.
 On our way out, Nana rubs Buddha's belly for good luck. You can see he's worn a little thin there.
 One of the entrances to the temple/shrine complex. That's a gingko tree--I love the brilliant shade of yellow they turn in the fall.


  1. Nana your hair looks so pretty! V. shiny.


  2. Dude, the sun was so bright that day that Justin's beard was shiny. But thanks for the compliment!

  3. its really nice dream is to visit in japan very near soon,,i hope it well be happen..