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Monday, May 22, 2017

Higashi Hongangi In Kyoto

In keeping up with the fine tradition of being the ame otoko (rain man), it rained that first day Trish and I spend in Kyoto back on November 19, 1992.

It was autumn, I had just turned 28, and I was traveling across the country of Japan from about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo to some 500 kilometers west of it with Trish, a woman I really liked, but was smart enough to just be friends with me.

Although only her first year on the JET Programme relative to my third, she spoke fluently in Japanese (unlike my oft botched writing attempts here in English) as a CIR (Coordinator of International Relations). Traveling with Trish, it was the first time I had ever traveled in the country and knew exactly where I was and what I was seeing.

You think I jest, but it was the truth.

These were the days just before the Internet became a thing - back when people used guide books and maps and redheads.

Kyoto-shi (Kyoto City) in Kyoto-ken (Prefecture of Kyoto) has over 1,000 temples on the tourist tour trail, and because I was a smart guy, I was smart enough to let the smarter Trish plan our itinerary.

That freed me up to just concentrate on being the muscle... so that she wouldn't be hassled by guys (foreign and Japanese) from trying to get in her pants. She had a boyfriend back home which prevented me from doing the same.

Muscle... ha... it was just security... and I hope companionship...

Our first stop was Higashi Hongangi (東本願寺), the Eastern Temple of the Original Vow.

What a great name. For a proper idea of just how large it is, over by the far right bottom corner, two  people can be seen. The place is friggin' huge.
Okay... Trish (on the right) is blurry and over-exposed (in the wrong way) by my flash... but she's sticking her tongue out mimicking the dragon water fountain. Don't worry, there are far more fun and in focus photos of Trish to come. I do have a far better photo of the same dragon that is actually one of my favorite photos, taken on a previous trip here with Ashley.
It is home to one of the two main sects of Shin Buddhism in Japan, with the other being Nishi Honganji (the Western Temple of the Original Vow), which is also located in Kyoto.
Yup... sometimes I can take a good photo. Not only was I born in the year of the dragon, but my kanji-fied Japanese name was An-do-ryu... peaceful-leader-dragon... so I like dragons.
Higashi Hongangi was originally constructed in 1602 by the very new warlord in charge of a unified Japan, the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. This shogun seized power officially in 1600AD, but was not actually named a shogun (military ruler) until 1603. He only officially ruled until 1605 when he abdicated, but was still actually the go-to man in power until his death in 1616.

In 1602, as a means to establish his power over even the religion/philosophy of Shin Buddhism, he split up the Shin Buddhist sect in two - the west and the east. It worked.

The thing is... before Tokugawa took over, Oda Nobunaga - powerful warrior who fought alongside Tokugawa - had actually burned down the original head Shin Buddhist temple Ishiyama Honganji in Osaka due to that temple's interference in politics.

It was the fourth and last time the buildings had been burned down... the previous three owing to just bad luck, while the last one in 1864 was done on purpose owing to the Buddhist sect's political interference.
This coil of rope was actually made from human hair, donated by local Kyoto women back in the 16th century.
General Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who fought under Nobunaga was later put in charge of rebuilding the Nishi (west) Honganji temple in 1591, with the temple Trish and I visited, the Higashi (Eastern) Honganji temple built in 1602, 11 years later.


Anyhow, what Trish and I saw, however, was a cluster of buildings - known as Ohigashisan (お東さん, Honorable Mr. East) that were built in 1895 after a fire had taken out the main complex. 

I am pretty sure the current design followed the original design, but don't quote me on that.

A look from inside Higashi Honganji out to the main entrance gate.
Although our trip had started off cold and damp, as the late afternoon wore on (We did after all travel for about 5+ hours from Tochigi-ken to Kyoto that morning), the grey skies had a minor semblance of blue in them, but it was still pretty chilly.

In the days before digital cameras made darn near everyone able to take semi-professional photos, I was still using a 50mm camera, a flash, and unforgiving film. In those days, for you young un's, when you snapped a photograph, the non-professional often had no clue if he/she had a "good" photo or not. 

Trish and I snapped photos together just in case the other faltered. So what you see here and in subsequent blogs about this trip is our combined efforts. 

I was pleased with my framing, but not with my inability to use a flash. 
Hello, I must be going... that's me in front of the entrance way just before Trish and I left the Higashi Honganji temple complex. Hmm... I'm not wearing my purple, blue and black striped jeans implying I must have brought two pairs of pants on a four-day trip... just in case the thought of me being in one pair of pants grossed out Trish. I really did and do think about stuff like that.
Kanpai, 
Andrew Joseph

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