Monday, May 18, 2009

Finally ~~ Japan Trip Photos (14-19 Jan'09) - Day 2


TODAI-JI Temple (東大寺)

Todaiji Temple was built in the Nara period (710 - 794 AD) at the behest of Emperor Shomu (r. 724 - 749). The temple was officially positioned as one of many state-established provincial temples. However, since the chief object of worship of the temple is Vairocana Buddha ("Buddha that shines throughout the world like the sun"), a magnificient temple was built to reflect this importance.

Todaiji Temple serves both as a place of prayer for peace and affluence on earth, as well as a center of Buddhist doctrinal research. OVer the centuries, Todaiji has produced many famous scholar priests.

Todaiji Temple was founded by Bishop Roben, and is to this day the Head Temple of the Keron Sect of Buddhism. The chief object of worship is Vairocana Buddha, who isalso the central Buddha in the Kegon Sutra. The statue of Vairocana Buddha is made from cast bronze, which was then plated with gold. The statue was consecrated in 752, but was damaged and repaired several times in the following centuries. The current hands of the statue were made in the Momoyama period (1568 - 1615), and the head was made in the Edo (1615 - 1867). The Great Buddha Hall was burned in the fires of war in 1180 and 1567, and the current building is actually the third generation structure which was built in the Edo period. The width of the current building is approximately 33% smaller than that of the original structure, but it still ranks as the largest wooden structure in the world.

Bought 1 of the Omamori (Japanese Amulet) from the temple. I bought a purple coloured with a Buddha pic, supposedly for and 'all-rounded' well-wishing & protection....

Omamori are Japanese amulets dedicated to particular Shinto deities as well as Buddhist figures. The word mamori means protection, with omamori meaning honorable protector.The amulet covering is usually made of cloth and encloses papers or pieces of wood with prayers written on them which are supposed to bring good luck to the bearer on particular occasions, tasks or ordeals. Omamori are also used to ward off bad luck and are often spotted on bags, hung on cellphone straps, in cars, etc. for safety in travel. Many omamori are specific in design to the location they were made.They often describe on one side the specific area of luck or protection they are intended for and have the name of the shrine or temple they were bought at on the other. Generic omamori exist, but most of them cover a single area: health, love, or studies, to name only a few. It is said that omamori should never be opened or they lose their protective capacities. Amulets do not expire, however they are commonly replaced once a year. Old amulets are usually returned to the shrine or temple so they can be disposed of properly.

Next Destination: Kimono Show
The word kimono simply means things to wear and is pronounced kee-mo-no. The plural of kimono is simply kimono. The kimono has had a long history in Japan and the kimono has changed over time to reflect the society and culture of that period.
Today, a Japanese woman usually owns only one kimono typically a furosode kimono which is worn for the coming of age ceremony on her 19th birthday. For weddings, the complete bridal kimono and kimono apparel is usually rented. Kimono are also very rarely worn as every day clothing anymore. Occasionally, if you go to a small rural town in Japan or one of small islands like Okinawa, you will see the traditional every day kimono worn by elders.


The kimono has had a long history in Japan and the kimono has changed over time to reflect the society and culture of that period.

During the Heian period 794-1185, the custom of elaborate layers of colored kimono robes became popular with Japanese women. Jun-hitoe, twelve unlined robes were frequently worn with the sleeve edges and collars showing the shades of each kimono. Persons of the royal court sometimes wore up to sixteen kimono layers. During the Kamakura period of 1185-1133 with the rising influence of the military class and warriors, people had no patience or need for elaborate kimono. Practicality prevailed and during this period the kosode meaning small sleeve was introduced into the kimono.

In 1615, military leader Tokugawa moved the capital of Japan from Kyoto, where the emperor resided to Edo, the present day Tokyo. Confucianism was adopted and hierarchy became the guiding principle where citizens were ranked based on their class. During the Edo period, people began to define their status by their kimono clothing. During this time the greatest artistic accomplishments were made with the kimono.

After 1853, the US Navy sailed to Tokyo and the beginning of Japan's commercial industry was opened to the Western world. Although Japanese people continued to wear the kimono for another hundred years, the beginning of the end of this practice was near.
During the Meiji period of 1868-1912, women began working outside their homes and required different clothing to accommodate their work. The Japanese people developed techniques to compete with the machine woven cloth available from the West. Cloth from other parts of the world were bought to make the kimono and the clothing. During the Taisho period of 1912-1926, Tokyo suffered a devastating earthquake which leveled most of the homes. Many of the old kimono were lost at this time.

During the Showa period 1926-1989, the japanese government curtailed silk production by taxing it to support the military buildup. Kimono designs became less complex and material was conserved. After World War II, as Japan's economy gradually recovered, kimono became even more affordable and were produced in greater quantities. Europe and America fashion ideas affected the kimono designs and motifs, but their shape remained the same. Kimono and obi colors changed with the season and with the age and status of the wearer.

Kiyomizu-dera (“The Clear Water Temple”, 清水寺)

Kiyomizu-dera (“The Clear Water Temple”, 清水寺) was founded in the early Heian period. The temple dates back to 798, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water. It separated from the Hosso school in 1965. Its present maintainers call themselves members of the "Kitahossō" sect. The main hall has a veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. The popular expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge".This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. Two hundred thirty-four jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited. Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water drop into a pond. Visitors to the temple collect the water, which is believed to have therapeutic properties, from the waterfall. It is said that drinking the water of the three streams confers wisdom, health, and longevity. However, some Japanese believe that you must choose only two — if you are greedy and drink from all three, you invite misfortune upon yourself.The temple complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to Okuninushi, a god of love and "good matches". Jishu Shrine possesses a pair of "love stones" placed 18 meters apart, which lonely visitors attempt to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that a go-between will be needed. The person's romantic interest can assist them as well.The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals (especially New Year's and obon in the summer) when additional booths fill the grounds selling traditional holiday foodstuffs, among other things, and the crowds are immense.

At Kyoto, while walking up to the Kiyomizu Temple, we experienced 'two-drops' of snow falling... I was so happy for a moment... But after that miserable 'two-drops', it never snowed throughout the remaining trip.... So sad..... :(

At a 'Stop-over' while on the way to our dinner destination...

Day 3 to be continued in next posting....................


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