Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Japanese Temples

If you've seen my pictures you will have noticed I saw many temples in Japan. Well that's one of the many things Japan has, along with mountains, rivers, small rooms, fast trains and many people. However, not all temples are Buddhist; some are Shinto. For you see, there are two types of religion noticed throughout the rolling landscape of Japan. The very colorful temples are for Shintoism, which is actually the first and original religion of Japan. These temples are usually smaller than the Buddhist temples but are definitely more colorful. They are usually designed with the colors green, orange and sometimes purple. They are wonderful to see because they pose such a sharp contrast to the Buddhist temples. The Buddhist temples, on the other hand, are more minimalistic- corresponding to their minimalist beliefs. They are simply designed wooden structures with very little color. However, the wood has all been exquistely carved with various form of kanji, katakana or other characters. Each temple has a beautiful worship room and this is the room where the statue of Buddha resides, and the only room that may show some color along with exquiste decoration. It's never done over the top but appears just right.

So what kind of temples did I see? Well I saw the second largest wooden structure in Nara City, the second largest Buddha, the only female Buddha and the skinnest Buddha. I also saw the oldest temple in Asuka and many five tiered pagodas (another common symbol around the temples). I saw the smallest scaled five tier pagoda (it was so cute) and also the craziest looking pagoda ever. I saw derelict looking temples and newly renovated ones... and even a golden temple.. yep golden... that one was a shocker. But by far, my favorite is the pagoda that has been affectionaly labeled as the fiesta pagoda (seen to the left).

I like this one for several reasons. Firstly, I saw it all by myself on my very last day in Japan. I went there during my layover in Tokyo and successfully managed the trains and purchasing my tickets to get there. Well I walked through this quaint little Japanese town on my way to the temple. I see other shops and food places and other tourists out enjoying the place. It warmed my heart. Secondly I really like this one because it's such a contrast to anything else seen. It just graps you and doesn't let go. I had seen other temples on my way up to this one (I had several levels to scale to reach thevery top temple- another common theme in Japan) and boom... here's this three story pagoda. I stopped dead in my tracks and just couldn't believe that I was seeing something this colorful and beautiful. Finally I like this pagoda because it is only three stories. Most pagodas are five and this one is definitely not. I don't know if it's because it was so exquite that they couldn't afford to do another
two tiers, but I'm sure it's symbolic of something... if only I had been able to understand the Japanese. Also, another great aspect to this pagoda was how it made all the other temples and shrines more colorful. Even the simply designed Buddhist temples had a little more color to them. It definitely was a place I very much enjoyed and quickly became a favorite.

So yes, you will see many temples throughout Japan, they're as common as the churches here in the Bible belt but each one has something special... find it and cherish it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,
I am so glad that you had such a great time. You are such a world traveler and see the best in anything where ever you go.