Today started with a run with my roommate, Tim. There is a famous monument about halfway up a steep hill overlooking Kameoka and at the top of the hill is another area with many more stone monuments and an observation tower with an even greater view. It has been tradition for the students of the JSAP program to take their morning run up this hill, so Tim and I decided to run it.
The previous night, Dr. Stapp had shown us the street to get to the path up the hill, so we had not seen the actual path before. We had a pretty good run to the beginning of the path. When we got there we found a steep staircase of tiny concrete steps, almost all of them too big for our feet. So we decided to just walk up the stairs to the monument (our only safe course of action). It was overcast that day but you could still see a large portion of the city. Unfortunately, the overcast skies meant that we were going to get rained on later in the day.
Our major event today was Sanjusangendo, a Buddhist temple located in south eastern Kyoto. Its name translated means “the hall of the 33 alcoves” which comes from the architectural design of the temple. There are 35 large pillars that support the building and 33 spaces between those pillars. The original name of the temple was Rengeo-in Temple and it was built in 1164 by the orders of the emperor Goshirakawa. The temple was rebuilt as Sanjusangendo in 1266 during the Kamakura era after Rengeo-in burned down, as so many other temples in Japan have. The hall is enormous, measuring 387 feet long by 59 feet wide, and it is the largest wooden building in the world.
Sanjusangendo is built around the gilded statue of the 1,000 armed Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. According to Buddhist tradition, each of these arms is able to save one world. There are also a thousand smaller gilded statues of Kannon, but instead of having a thousand arms for each of these statues, each has only forty arms with each arm able to save 25 worlds. These statues were carved by 70 sculptors out of Japanese cypress led by the sculptor Tankai and are all slightly different from one another. One of the customs among visitors to Sanjusangendo is to try to find the likeness of friends and family members in the faces of the many statues located here.
Since 1606, Sanjusangendo has hosted a biannual archery contest on January 15 and May 2. Archers attempt to see who can fire the greatest number of arrows at a target. The archer stands outside at the one end of the lengthy hall and aims at the target located in the veranda of the other end of the hall, a 400 foot shot. The record for the greatest number of arrows shot was set by a 12-year samurai in 1686 when shot 13,056 arrows and hit 8,133 bull’s eyes all in one day.
Miamyoto Musashi, the famed 17th century Japanese swordsman, fought a duel here with members of a rival school of swordsmanship. He killed 16 of his opponents all by himself. At the end of the temple tour, there was a display about this event which included a portrait of Musashi. Needless to say, Musashi does not look at all like Toshiro Mifune.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside of Sanjusangendo so the pictures in the gallery are all from the outside. As you can see from the pictures, it rained very hard today so we canceled our other planned cultural excursion and shopped in the Kyoto train station. I’ve tried to get a few shots of Sanjusangendo to show how large the building is but none of my shots do it justice.
Below the station is a shopping center where we ate lunch. A few of us ate at an Italian restaurant. I ordered the carbonara and finally got my chance to slurp the noodles.
Later I went with Shannon (who is comically photogenic, just look at the photos and see if you can figure out who she is) shopping downstairs. I only bought one thing, green tea pudding balls that I fell in love with at Kinkakuji. When I bought it, the cashier pointed to the 20th on the calendar. I think she meant that you had to eat them by that date (like they are going to last more than a day). When I looked on the packaging, sure enough there was a curious date in Arabic numbers on it, 16.5.20 which sort of looks like its only good from the 16th to the 20th and I can’t eat it for 3 days. It turns out that the number 16 is the current emperor’s reining year, so down the hatch!
I didn’t buy anything else today, but I seriously considered spending all of my money on a foot massage after all the walking we had done in the past few days. The trip is still young.
I finally got to post today, but I had a tough time doing it. The local Internet cafe is open only for 9 hours a day, so it was hard to get back in time to use it after all our outings. It was very cheap, about $1 an hour, but they didn’t have a data port for me to plug my laptop into, so I had to do all my posting and copying from my USB hard drive. They only had one Windows XP computer where the drive would work, the rest of the computers were Windows ME (Windows ME?!? What kind of crappy OS choice is that?). XP kept letting my FTP connection die, so it took a lot longer to upload files than usual. I still haven’t uploaded all my pictures yet. Maybe I’ll get a chance after we get back from Nara.
I can’t figure out how the cafe stays in business. There are only 7 computers working for 9 hours a day for $1 an hour. That means at most, $63 an day. There were 5 people working there, and there didn’t appear to be any other form of income. It’s very strange.
Finally, for dinner we ate at a noodle shop in Kameoka. I choose Cha Shu Men for dinner, ramen noodles with pork cutlets, which were so good I forgot to take a picture of it before diving in. They were great so I think I’ll have to get them again before I leave.
I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk about sweet, tasty Pocari Sweat. Rest assured I will get around to it.
Today’s kanji is the character for tea, ?. It looks kind of like the katakana character ? but with a roof and a short H on it. It is on a ton of drinks and on some food. It’s a very useful character to know.
Tomorrow Nara, Sharp Corporation, and Yakitori.