Jojuin & Uji

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I discovered when doing research for this journey in Japan, that the Jojuin Garden, called the “Moon Garden” would be open to the public only from May 3-6 for Spring Viewing.  The only other time it is open is a few days in the fall.  So I convinced our guide Ted, who was with us on Tuesday and agreed to also show us around on Friday, to revise his itinerary to include this special event.  So we bussed down to the great temple of Kiyomizudera which sits on a hill in Eastern Kyoto and were there before 9 am when the doors opened.  Photos were not allowed but we sat and quietly gazed at the carefully crafted garden, with flora of different heights to give a feeling of perspective and rocks with special names, which were described to us by Ted.  The huge temple itself was crowded with people enjoying vacation during Golden Week but then it is always busy as it is a religious center for many people who wait in line to give thanks and be blessed by Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  Founded in 778, it is also one of the oldest still active temples in Kyoto.

At Kiyomizadera

Through great crowds, Ted guided us to the subway system where we changed a few times to arrive in the town of Uji, in the Southern Kyoto area.   A beautifully peaceful town along a river, this was a wonderful change from the bustle of Kyoto — and the weather Is perfect today.  We have an incredibly artful lunch at an old Kaiseki restaurant, Tatsumiya, designed to reflect the bounty of the spring season.  We could not recognize half of the food we ate.  

The big draw for Ugi is the large temple of Byodo-in which on this beautiful day was busy with visitors.  We had only a brief time there and only some of us were able to visit at all — Paula was following us to the temple and lost our group. She wisely sat down and waited until one of us found her.  

The front of the Byodo-in Main Hall
The back of Byodo-in

As a special experience, we enjoyed a tea ceremony in a small tatami room with an apprentice carefully following all ritual protocols for pouring water and placing the utensils. A tea master explained to us what to do, how to handle the cup and drink the tea.  I have to admit I probably offended her by only putting my lips to the cup as I was afraid the caffeine in the tea would upset my delicate sleep balance.

Our last stop was across the river and along a tree lined street to the Ujigami Shrine, said by Ted to be the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. We heard from Ted about the battle between Shintoism and Buddhism, with Buddhism temporarily losing, resulting in the destruction of many historic Buddhist structures. And today the country is a combination of practices, both ancient Shinto and more recent Buddhist sects.

At the Ugigami Shrine

We presented some books we had brought from home for Ted, who actually cried at our gesture of thank you for his time and assistance helping us enjoy the marvels of Kyoto.

As we surely did.