A Visit to Kyoto’s Sanzen-in Temple
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Growing Tsukubai Basin Sanzen-in Temple in Ohara, a mountain suburb of Kyoto, Japan -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Growing Tsukubai Basin
Sanzen-in Temple
in Ohara, a mountain suburb of Kyoto, Japan

Getting cabin fever from being cooped up inside due to the swine flu hysteria, Fumie wanted to get out and into nature, and I was all for it. We decided to visit the Sanzen-in temple (home page) in the mountains north-east of Kyoto, about 20 minutes by car.

We'd gone by the unattractive bus parking lots for it many times, and so based on that my preconceived image wasn't very complimentary, but it turns out that my prejudice was what most prejudice is: ignorant.

The unattractive parking lots are apparently private third-party lots, among many dotting the main road through the village of Ohara (officially, part of Kyoto City). The temple itself is set in a niche of the mountains about half a mile off the main road, reached by a pleasant stroll past restaurants and shops that are surprisingly in good taste. (Normally, the environs around a famous rural temple or shrine are fairly garish, and to me, one of the uglier features of Japanese culture.) I even saw something I'd never seen before: chilled cucumber on a stick which I can actually sort of imagine as being refreshing, and chilled eggplant on a stick which I cannot. Wow.

Lane Leading to the Temple -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Lane Leading to the Temple

The couple in the shot above are checking out this restaurant...

Restaurant Along the Lane -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34 mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Restaurant Along the Lane

...which features a cute figure dressed in a costume related to the temple...

Lady Carrying a Bundle of Sticks? (if it were a real person, would babies be on her head?) -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Lady Carrying a Bundle of Sticks?
(if it were a real person, would babies be on her head?)
Halfway There Anthony makes the trip faster by flying -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Halfway There
Anthony makes the trip faster by flying

The lane leading to the temple was wonderfully wooded and pleasant, paralleling a little stream. I felt like we were walking in the woods, but in looking at the satellite photo of the area (see the “exif & map” link under each photo), I see that it's just a little strip like this, surrounded by rice fields.

Anyway, we reached the temple and paid the 700 yen (~$7) each to get in, which is fairly pricy as temples go, but, as I soon found out, well worth it.

The grounds are made up of many temple buildings, separated by wonderful gardens. Being on a mountainside, there are many different zones, each with its own flavor. (The Konzou Temple, which I wrote about last month, is also on a mountainside, but the two couldn't be further apart in style, feel, popularity, state of repair, mountain steepness, or commercialism. A comparison would perhaps make an interesting post.)

Inner Passage -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/160 sec, f/3.2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Inner Passage

I'm not sure how old the temple site is, but it was founded by a guy who died in 822, so “about 1,200 years ago” would be a good guess. I have no idea what the temple name, 三千, means, but the characters for it mean “3,000”.

Contemplation -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/160 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Contemplation

Patience is an important skill for a photographer... I saw the girl sitting there enjoying the garden, sitting seiza style, and wanted to get the picture you see above. Unfortunately, there seemed to always be someone else in the frame... people coming or going, or just wandering into frame and picking that spot to tie their shoe. It was surprisingly uncrowded for a weekend (perhaps one of the nicer side effects of the flu hysteria), but it was a pretty spot and so naturally there were always people coming and going.

So I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally, for just a second or three, it was clear and I got the shot I wanted.

The temple had a little activity for elementary-school kids (for whom admission is only 150 yen to begin with), a “stamp rally” where they visit six stations throughout the grounds and add a stamp to a booklet, then at the last, when presenting the booklet filled with stamps, receive a small present. Like most children, Anthony probably prefers having teeth pulled in preference to anything involving nature or history or culture, so this stamp-rally thing made the visit appealing for him.

Here', he's getting stamp #2...

Stamp Station #2 -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Stamp Station #2
Stamp #2 -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Stamp #2

Stamp Station #2 was near a corner of one of the main buildings, and the walkway that wrapped around the outside yielded some impressive views.....

View Across One of the Gardens to the rear of the next temple building -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 40 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
View Across One of the Gardens
to the rear of the next temple building

The grounds are filled with short momiji maple, which are certainly spectacular in the fall, along the lines, I'm sure, with the garden at the Enkouji Temple (as seen in this post of Kyoto fall-foliage desktop backgrounds, and in this spectacular photo), but here, there's an additional dimension lent by towering cedars...

Towering -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/9, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Towering

From about the same spot, looking back toward the mountain, I noticed a stairway blending in with the wooded slope...

Forest Stairway -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Forest Stairway

Anyway, back inside, to the area with “Stamp Station #2”...

An Ornate View from the stamp station -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
An Ornate View
from the stamp station

In the center-foreground of the picture above, you can see a stack of sticks (182 sticks, actually). These are gomaki, sticks on which you write a personal wish or prayer. The temple later burns them in a ceremony, and your wish/prayer goes with the smoke up to the heavens. (I posted about the comparable Shinto rite in last year's “Intense Burn” post, and in the prior year's “Rare Shinto Shrine-Closing Ceremony” post.)

Anyway, when Fumie wrote one, Anthony decided to do one as well. All by himself, without any prompting or help, this is what he wrote:

せかいじゅうの ひとが けんこうに なりますように おねがいします あーめー

He wrote the wrong character at the end, but otherwise it's perfect, and means:

That everyone on earth is healthy.... I humbly request. Amen.

We're very proud of him.

Unfortunately, I missed him actually writing it, because I was again exercising patience to try to get a shot just outside the building, of the path continuing on the suggested route for temple visitors, devoid of people...

Path Sanzen-in Temple, Ohara, Kyoto Japan -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/8, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
Path
Sanzen-in Temple, Ohara, Kyoto Japan

The small white wall toward the end of the path are ropes filled with omikuji “bad fortunes”, as I wrote about here.

Eventually Anthony and Fumie finished writing their gomaki and joined me, and I think I startled Anthony or something, because I captured a serious face that hints at what he'll look like as an adult...

Serious Moment? -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Serious Moment?

He is a kid, though, so did a little dance in excitement about the “stamp rally” thing...

Kid Dancing a Happy Jig -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Kid Dancing a Happy Jig
Stamp #3 -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Stamp #3

Stamp #3 was outside a smaller temple building (the one visible from the back, across the garden, in several of the shots above). While he was up there getting his stamp, a monk inside started giving a presentation of some sort, so they hung around a bit to watch...

Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/5, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos

As before, I took the opportunity to try to get a pretty picture of the gardens. It was overcast for much of the day, but the sun was showing a bit at that moment, so...

Sunshine at the Sanzen-in Temple -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Sunshine at the Sanzen-in Temple
Leaving Stamp Station #3 ( which, as you can see, looks nicer from the front than from the back ) -- Sanzen-in Temple -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Leaving Stamp Station #3
( which, as you can see, looks nicer from the front than from the back )

We weren't even halfway through the grounds yet, but this post is already way too long (and I'm up way too far past my bedtime), so I'll leave the rest for another post...

Continued here...


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

“Like most children, Anthony probably prefers having teeth pulled in preference to anything involving nature or history or culture”

Ah, an unchanging universal truth. Remember our distant past when we went to the Redwood National Park? One of the most awesome (in the sense of inspiring awe) places to see, but I seem to recall most of us kids were far more excited to pick up pull-tabs and cigarette butts in sufficient numbers to obtain our Junior Ranger Badge than looking at or learning about the natural wonders surrounding us.

— comment by Marcina, USA on May 25th, 2009 at 9:18pm JST (8 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

I can relate to your feelings in Contemplation and Path. I can see that, for Contemplation, you were at 70mm. I was at the Calgary Zoo yesterday with my boys and my XTi with my 70-200mm lens. Even at 70mm, I was far enough away from my subjects that people kept walking between us and making me wait for photos.

— comment by Ken on May 26th, 2009 at 12:11am JST (8 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Great photos as usual. I think Anthony’s prayer is awesome – you and Fumie are certainly raising him right!

— comment by Eric Mesa on May 26th, 2009 at 10:35pm JST (8 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

This is such an excellent post. Pictures are amazing and nice details. I like “inner passage”. Anthony’s prayer is so sweet! To have health as focus is very good. Your “exercising patience” comment was very funny. Thanks for giving us a tour of this beautiful temple.

— comment by Sonal, MN on May 27th, 2009 at 12:00am JST (8 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

I don’t take many photos, but personally, I’d cheat. I’d eventually, (try 2 minutes) get frustrated, take LOTS of shots with WHOEVER in the way, and composite them later in GIMP.

But that’s just me.

A beautiful set of pictures. Makes me want to visit.

— comment by Sean on May 27th, 2009 at 12:42pm JST (8 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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