Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nariai-ji 成相寺 #28

Amanohashidate from Kasamatsukoen
Nariai-ji is a secluded temple up the slope a mountain overlooking Amanohashidate 天橋立 in northern Kyoto prefecture on the Sea of Japan. The temple is part of the Kasamatukoen 傘松公園 area on the far side of Amanohashidate.

I guess I should begin by explaining what Amanohashidate is. It's a spit of sandy land that makes a small land bridge closing off a bay. One of Japan's most unusual geographical features and one of Japan's three most beautiful landscapes. I went there 6 years ago before I was married or had a job, and when I took too many photos. Here's 118 photos I uploaded to flickr from the experience. It was my first trip as an exchange student. Who would have thought that I would be coming back to the exact same place but going to a temple. I had gone there just to check out what this place was and look at Amanohashidate between my legs as the the custom says. I wasn't that interested in temples back then.
A family on the new viewing platform
Walking up to the cable car
It was Yuko's first time here in 20 years or more. On the way there she told a story of here father taking the family there on a day trip and deciding the spend the night instead despite having no change of clothes or any overnight goods. They got the last room available in the city at the minshuku run by the attendant of the parking lot they used. Sounds fun.

Yuko was a little worred about the snow and getting there, but we had no problem. The freeways get you right there and the roads in the city were all plowed. It was actually a great time to go as there really weren't that many people there. Only a few families out and about as it was Dec 30th and everyone was heading to their homes for the New Year's celebrations.

Cable car station
We parked our car and walked up to the cable car station. There we learned that there was a hitch in our plan. The cable car was running to the viewing area up the hill, but the bus that runs from there to the temple was out of service because of heavy snow. We still wanted to look down on Amanohashidate so we got the ticket up and went to the top. There we learned that the walk would take 30 to 45 minutes. Given the time and if we didn't linger too long at the temple we could make it. So hiking up the mountain we went.

Yuko hiking up the mountain
It was a little tough and I ended up getting pretty sweaty under my heavy jacket plus a sleepy Mia on my back, but we got up there in 20 or 25 minutes. Not too bad. Getting down was the difficult part as it was harder to get a good grip on the icy road.

The pagoda and a ton of snow
The temple itself has a gate down near the entrance then a few hundred yards up there's a pagoda and parking lot for those who want to drive up to the temple. The final stairs up the the main temple were rather steep and only a single track was shoveled out allowing the few people there to get up to the temple.

The temple entrance
The temple, surrounded by snow in the afternoon sun, was georgous. A wonderful goal after a short, but hard hike. We walked in and waited to get out scroll signed. The monk who signed the scroll told us a story about the founding of the Saikoku pilgrimage. Well he told Yuko mostly as the Japanese was well above my understanding although it was little tough for Yuko also. After the story ended and he signed our scroll we received a special sange, a paper seal in a leaf shape with a image from the temple, that was printed about 20 years ago. The sange was part of a series commemorating the 1,000 year anniversary of the pilgrimage route. He gave us the sange as a special gift for visiting the temple. Maybe because he could tell we hiked up, or because I was a foreigner or just because he liked us, but we were really honored to hear the story from him and get the sange.
The sange

As part of a JR West promotion the Saikoku temples have been giving out smaller sange for the last two years or so. We've been collecting those also, but the special sange we got at Nariai-ji is something special that we'll always treasure.

After exploring the inside of the temple we headed back into the snow. In front of the temple was a large tub with ladles for purification. The tub was originally the bath for the monks in the temple although they would never actually climb in it, but only ladle water from tub.

The tub
We made our way back down well before the last cable car of the day, took a few photos at the viewpoint before getting off the mountain. We were so excited and happy about how well everything went and our experience at the temple. It was much better hiking to the temple from the viewpoint. Putting some effort into getting to each temple makes arriving there so much more fulfilling. You can get an idea of how the faithful before cars and trains had to struggle and suffer to complete this pilgrimage which is a pleasant day out for us in the modern world.

Drying the ink

On the way home we had dinner in the local shopping center and stopped in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto to check out the super-sento there, Fukuchiyama Onsen. I'll post a review on I Love Yu soon.

The single track of stairs

Some family shots from the viewing area. Mia slept most of the hike up and at the temple, but she woke up and started crying on the way down. We're both doing are boo-boo faces. She's also too small to look at Amanohashidate through her own legs so I let her use mine!

1 comment:

angryparsnip said...

Thank you for this wonderful photo trip.
How special that you received the special Sange from the is beautiful...
And I remember your first trip to Amanohashidate.
You forgot to mention why you are suppose to look through your legs.

The last photo of "The single track of stairs" is a beautiful photo !
For us Americans... what a wonderful Christmas card.

cheers, parsnip