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Monday, March 26, 2012

Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto

Here's a photo up above of a very popular temple in Japan. It's Kyomizu-dera in Kyoto. What is unusual about this photo is that it is not your typical photograph of the temple.

There is a portion of the temple which juts out over a cliff... and that is what people photograph. Not me, of course. I was far, far away and used a 150mm telephoto lens to shoot through the awesome, romantic mist to get this shot of the temple complex. At this time in my artistic photographic life, I liked to frame my subjects with nearby overhanging natural foliage. 

Of course... I could be wrong and this isn't actually Kyomizu-dera because I stupidly never marked my photographs figuring that even 20 years after the fact I would remember a vista as spectacular as this.  

So... I'm going to go out on a limb overhanging a cliff and suggest that the photo is exactly what I say it is.... despite it not showing off the awesome cliff scene plumbed from Wikipedia below:
While I believe my photo shows a straight on view of the cliffs... and hours spent researching it in-line proved nothing (okay - minutes)... I feel awkward about this... still what the hell...  it's me. I am awkward usually.

So... some background on Kiyomizu-dera (dera/tera means temple). It's official name is Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺), and it is a Buddhist temple, and the main temple that looks over the cliff was built in 778, with the other parts of the complex built around it in 1633.

Kiyomizu means pure water, and is taken from the waterfall below the main hall where if you drink from the waters you are supposed to be granted the ability to do well in studies. Or, if you prefer, since there are three streams of the waterfall... each stream is supposed to grant a different type of boon. Use at your own risk and wish you don't mix up the streams. Never cross the streams.

Now... with such a view, what is it that people like to do? Why jump off it, of course. While now prohibited, it was once believed that if one jumped off the temple and survived the 13-meter (42.65-feet) landing, your wish would be granted. Hopefully that wish was to survive the jump. Still, during the Edo -jidai (the Edo Period of 1603-1868) there were an official 234 jumps with and an astounding 85.4% survival rate.

Sounds like some jumpers got greedy and rather than wish for survival wished for something trivial like food, a healthy child in a happy family or to be the leader of Japan.

Anyhow... this national treasure of a building, was actually built without a single nail, which boggles my mind.

If I am correct, there was something going on that day I visited Kiyomizu-dera, and I couldn't get into the actual main temple because it was raining and there was construction going on. Or, I was broke and didn't have the cash, or I was tired and wet from the rain which follows me on every vacation or trip out of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken where I was living 500 kilometers away, or my traveling partner, the gorgeous and freckly redheaded Trisha Pepper and I were just too beat to get there after traveling around the prefecture for a week.

I do recall that while Trisha and I were all for seeing the tourist sites, we tried to find ways to see them that were off the beaten path. And no, we didn't sleep together, though I would have liked nothing better. Friends with benefits we were. Unfortunately, the benefits were her speaking damn near perfect Japanese as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) on the JET Programme, and me being the muscle to keep her safe (apparently even from me - dammit!).

Back to the data: the whole temple complex (my photo above), obviously has more to it than just a spectacular view of where 14.6% of the people jumping for the joy of wishing died. There's the the cool Jishu Shrine dedicated to the god of love and good matches (not cupid or a website, but: Ōkuninushi) ... hmm, perhaps another reason why Trisha and I never made it there.

Despite her having a sense of humor to rival my own, and she's a natural redhead (though the unnatural redhead is a prey worth delving into as far as I am concerned as I love redheads), she did have a boyfriend back home... and I do believe that congratulations are in order to Trisha because I think she was the only person to come to Japan with a significant other left back home, and to be faithful. Even I couldn't convince her, and damn it, 20 years ago, it was a hell of a lot easier to sway a woman over to the dark side of the force, if you know what I mean, young Jedi.     

At the Jishu Shrine... there are two small love stones that are six meters (~20-feet) away from each other. Lonely visitors like myself, could have picked up a love stone and with my eyes tightly shut (no cheating... yeah, right) you have to try and walk over to the other stone. Two stones together means you will find success in finding your true love no matter the distance.

But there are other rules. Let's say I had my ex-girlfriend Ashley there at Kiyomizu-dera with Trisha and myself. Ashley could guide me towards the other stone with directions. But, knowing how star-crossed we were, I probably would have been guided to walk off the main Kiyomizu-dera and down 13 meters to sure death because I hadn't made a proper wish (which would have been to take her with me). I jest. But, by using help to get to the other love stone, the implication is that a go-between would be required in real-life for you to find true love.

As well... should already be with someone who is the love of your life, he or she can guide you to the other side (of the temple!) where the other love stone is. The god Ōkuninushi wants you to succeed in love... it's why he makes it easy for you.

But only, apparently, if you get close enough to the damn temple complex to get your rocks off together.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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