Some people make a day trip to Koyasan. Big mistake. Sure the temple lodgings aren’t cheap, but the temple lodging experience (shukubo or 宿坊) is fabulous and Koyasan transforms into a different kind of magical place when the sun goes down.
When I lived in Japan in the 1980s I didn’t get the chance to travel outside of the Tokyo and Yamanashi area. I purchased a set of postcards at the time and looked at them often. Probably half or more were from Kyoto. The only two scenes in these twenty or so postcards that I actually saw in person in the 1980s were Mt. Fuji and a Shinkansen.
Fast forward 25 years, and I was riding a bike through Kyoto stopping at any place that looked interesting without any prior research. I ended up at the entrance gate for Ninnaji and payed 500 yen. After walking around the grounds I felt a bit ripped off. Just before leaving I saw someone hand their admission ticket to a man and enter a building so I followed suit. Moments later I realized that my 500 yen was well spent. This was one of the scenes from one of those postcards I had looked at so fondly decades before! Not only that, but the place was mostly empty. Occasionally another person would wander in and gasp at the beauty of the South Garden (dantei) before heading back out, but for the most part this was my garden to meditate in by myself.
The Tokyo National Museum kills you on most days with this view of the lush garden and tea house they have out back. There are doors to go out and enter this wonderland, but they are locked except for a few days of the year during cherry blossom season and when fall foliage hits its peak. We were there on a rare cool day in summer. The rain had just stopped and the outdoors looked like the perfect place to be. Instead we were locked (it felt like trapped) inside.
At this baseball field, on the Arakawa River (荒川) in Tokyo, water is less than 250 feet away for a left-handed hitter. There are no walls or seats to clear. There were a couple of guys fishing in right field though.
I have yet to get past part one in my Suwa Jinja Matsuri series. Someday I’ll return to those pics. Fast forward six months to a neat-sky Sunday in February. I was out for a walk with my camera and decided to visit this Shinto shrine again to see if there were any plum blossoms on the grounds. There weren’t, but the sky made for some good photos anyway.
Normally you approach a shrine from the front, passing under the torii. I came from a park in the back (which is the order of today’s pictures). The kids’ park has been overrun with homeless men. There wasn’t a kid in the place, but there were about a half dozen homeless men hanging out or sleeping in their makeshift, blue-tarp, tent homes.
Ironically, there were boy scouts putting away their own tents on the shrine grounds when I arrived. A chain-link fence was the only thing between the homeless campers and the boy scout campers who were about to head home. I thought it was a strange scene. I wonder if the boy scouts or the homeless dudes felt the same way.
At last I exited, through the normal entrance.