Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


Tenryu-ji (Kyoto)

Tenryu-ji Temple located in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district is one of those places for which adjectives were invented.  However, perhaps pointing out that Tenryu-ji is the first ranked of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto will stand as sufficient testimony to its significance through the ages.

Magnificent buildings within magnificent gardens within a delightful town make a visit to Tenryu-ji an experience to savour and remember.  My first visit was on a holiday weekend during autumn and although the crowds made it impossible to take internal shots, the communal enjoyment and celebration of the autumn colours further enhanced the experience.  An earlier post (Autumn in Japan) included several shots from Tenryu-ji and further examples of the autumn hues are shown here via the photographs of the Sogen-chi Pond.  When pondering the scene, bear in mind that by retaining the same structure since their design in the fourteenth century by Muso Soseki, these gardens have truly passed the test of time.

A return visit some weeks later on a quieter day provided an opportunity to leisurely enjoy the buildings and the interior spaces.  The use of dark, heavy timbers creates atmosphere and the joy of walking on timbers smoothed over the years by the steps of countless visitors is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Sitting on the Tatami floors in the Hojo (main hall) looking over Sogen-chi Pond to the landscape beyond is when one really appreciates this place.  The views are serene and I distinctly remember reflecting on how difficult a monk’s life would have been centuries ago, yet how apt a reward to be able to recharge one’s spirits by gazing over a view such as that still seen today.  From that moment I have thought of Tenryu-ji’s underlying character as regenerative.

A walk through the temple buildings reveals links to the past.  One such link is the image of Daruma (pic 9), the Indian Buddhist monk considered to be the founder of Zen Buddhism.  Similarly, pic 10 shows a shrine to Emperor Go-Daigo who lived and studied in a villa on the site of the present temple.  Following his death, Ashikaga Takauji (the first shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate) ordered the villa’s conversion to a Zen temple.

Of course, there is always place for fun amidst history and a popular attraction is a little ornamental pond where visitors delight in trying to land coins onto the frog statues.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)



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Ryoanji in Autumn

Ryoanji (the Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is located in the foothills northwest of Kyoto.  If visiting, I would recommend travelling on the small train of the Keifuku Kitano Line to enjoy a view of residential life in Kyoto.

Ryoanji is a Zen temple most famous for its karesansui (rock garden), which is said to be the finest garden of its type.  The karesansui will be the subject of a later post, though glimpses of the magnificent garden wall can be seen in photos 6 and 7.  For this post I simply want to share the beauty of Ryoanji’s other garden areas during autumn, particularly those around the Kyoyochi Pond, built in the 12th century and pre-dating the temple buildings of the late 15th century.

“I learn only to be contented” is the translation of an inscription on a stone washbasin for Ryoanji’s tea-room (not open to the public).  Zen considers those who learn only to be contented to be spiritually rich.  My hope here is less ambitious and is simply that you may find contentment in the images.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

Autumn in Japan



Irrashaimase or welcome to my first post.  It’s now Autumn in Japan, so it seems right to share some photographs of the seasonalAutumn colours.  Science may explain the colour changes as a chemical reaction to trees shutting-off nutrition to the leaves, but I prefer to think of it more simply as nature’s way.  To survive the winter it is necessary to shed, but not before putting on a spectacular colour display to awe all who witness it.  

To say the Autumn colours are celebrated is an understatement.  I was totally unprepared for the number of people of all ages who flock to gardens, parks and temples, particularly at weekends and public holidays, to enjoy the annual visual feast.  However, this adds to the experience and demonstrates how integral the seasons are to the Japanese culture and lifestyle.  Indeed, one feels some envy that such a natural phenomenon as seasonal change is so appreciated and that community pleasure is derived from such a natural and recurring event.  Of course, Japan has the advantage of enjoying four distinct seasons – an advantage not shared by all countries.  Nevertheless, there is a lesson to be learned from Japan’s appreciation of nature.

I do have one wish though and that is that the authorities would be less efficient in clearing away the fallen leaves.  They make a beautiful carpet and one of life’s little pleasures is walking through a carpet of rustling leaves no matter what age we are.  Enjoy!

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)