Rediscovering Kyoto’s Chion’in Temple via a Short Mountain Hike
desktop background image of the massive bell at the Chion -- Big Bell 70 metric tons of very big bell at the Chion'in Temple, Kyoto Japan 知恩院の鈴 -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Big Bell
70 metric tons of very big bell
at the Chion'in Temple, Kyoto Japan
知恩院の鈴
Desktop-Background Versions
1280×800  ·  1680×1050  ·  1920×1200  ·  2560×1600  ·  2880×1800

It's been a month since I sprained my ankle while on a mountain hike. It's been feeling mostly better for a while, so I finally decided to do a short hike up to the Shogunzuka overlook just to test things out.

The hike is very simple (I've done it with a five-year-old in tow), and from home it took only 10 minutes to the trailhead, and from there 20 minutes up.

It was a splendid day, but the view from the top was hazy and dull...

Hazy Kyoto not much to see today -- Shogunzuka Overlook (将軍塚) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/16, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Hazy Kyoto
not much to see today

The plane in the distance is Jetstar 615, half way on its run from Tokyo to Kumamoto. Flying at an altitude of 11km, it's about 34km (21 miles) away at this point.

There wasn't much else to see, so I turned around to try my luck going back down, a direction that I tend to be injury proned.

A minute into the downhill portion I came across trail signposts, and on a whim decided to take the trail down to the Chion'in Temple, a path I'd never taken.

I Took a Left -- Shogunzuka (将軍塚) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/4.5, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
I Took a Left

These local signposts are much nicer than the official Kyoto City posts like the one in the lower right of the photo (like this), which indicates that the path to Chion'in doesn't even go there (or anywhere).

Anti-Ankle Trail roots and rocks galore -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/4.5, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Anti-Ankle Trail
roots and rocks galore
More Signposts with real information for a change -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
More Signposts
with real information for a change

The sign above informs me that the trail's exit at the Chion'in Temple closes at 4pm. I had plenty of time.

Despite that I used to live about a minute's walk away from the Chion'in Temple, I've never had much interest in it, other than its famous huge wooden gate. When you walk through the gate and up the bazillion steps to the temple proper, you're greeted mostly with a vast expanse of dusty gravel and a common (but big) temple building. Not too interesting.

The temple building is currently undergoing its once-in-a-hundred-years roof repair, which made for a great photo opportunity for the three days it was open, but for the other years of the project, you get just a big ugly protection shell.

So anyway, I was curious where among this stuff the trail came out of the mountain, and with that in mind, I was a bit surprised to find the trail exit the mountain near a dilapidated and apparently-abandoned temple(ish) building I'd not known of...

Mountain Sign like the kind commonly seen in Kyoto mountains -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/4.5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Mountain Sign
like the kind commonly seen in Kyoto mountains

There was also a mini Stonehenge of monuments, including these two massive rocks:

Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/8, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos

The carving on the one with the flowing writing is amazing...

“ ... you too... ” (about the only thing I could understand) -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
... you too...
(about the only thing I could understand)

Just off trail, spiders had set up their own monuments, with webs that reflected (refracted?) pretty colors...

Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos

Then I came across an entrance to what I assume is a sub-temple of some sort, and a graveyard:

“ No Passage ” -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
No Passage

Normally if they don't want you to go in, the sign says Entrance Prohibited, but this sign says Passage Prohibited. I took that to mean that they didn't want you using it as a shortcut path to some destination beyond, which meant that I probably could have gone in, but I didn't want to take the chance that I misunderstood, so I didn't enter. After all, I'm just a guest.

Finally I came to the gate that closes at 4pm...

Open 6am - 4pm -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/200 sec, f/8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Open 6am - 4pm

And then was stunned to see the biggest bell I'd ever seen:

Absolutely Massive -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 58mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Absolutely Massive
150,000 pounds · 378 years old (the bell; I'm not sure about the guy) -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
150,000 pounds · 378 years old
(the bell; I'm not sure about the guy)

I was now regretting that the one lens that I brought with me (the Sigma Bigma 50-500mm) didn't go nearly wide enough to do this bell justice. According to the sign in the photo that leads this post, it was built in 1636 (378 years ago). It's 3.3m (~11 ft) tall, 2.8m wide at the mouth, 30cm (about a foot) thick, and about 70 metric tons (150,000 pounds).

Just wow.

I'll Need to Come Back with more-appropriate lenses -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/30 sec, f/6.3, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
I'll Need to Come Back
with more-appropriate lenses

The bell is a designated Important Cultural Property of Japan, which somehow made it more funny when a newspaper delivery guy came whizzing by on his scooter, up the steps I had just descended, and through the gate that was soon to be locked at 4pm...

Looking Back at the Gate to the Trail where the newspaper guy scootered up and through -- Chion'in Temple (知恩院) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking Back at the Gate to the Trail
where the newspaper guy scootered up and through

He came back soon enough, so he probably didn't go up the mountain :-), but instead to the sub-temple area I'd been hesitant to enter.

From the bell area, a short path went down to the aforementioned vast expanse of dusty gravel main area, so by now I knew where I was, but I felt silly for not having known about the bell or the sub-temple(ish) area. (I didn't realize at the time that this was merely the start of many feeling-silly-that-I-was-so-ignorant experiences for the day.)

Rather than go down to the main area, I took another path that lead, as best I can tell, off the temple property to a very small little park that was predominantly filled with big ugly STAY OFF THE GRASS signs, and this little gazebo with an even uglier CAMPING STRICTLY PROHIBITED sign sitting squarely in the one place in the park that anyone might want to actually enjoy...

Monumentally Ugly -- Maruyama Park (円山公園) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Monumentally Ugly

This kind of discord (a pleasant/beautiful scene is totally marred by something ugly that really doesn't need to be there) is common in Japan. It's such a shame because the Japanese sense for beauty and harmony with nature is otherwise so nice.

In their defense, though, though the ugly sign does destroy the one nice area of the park someone might want to enjoy, it's also the one area someone might want to camp in, so yeah, they have that going for them. /-:

Anyway, facing the park more or less next to the big bell area was another temple I'd not known existed:

Anyoji Temple (安養寺) entrance of many steps -- Anyoji Temple (安養寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/13, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Anyoji Temple (安養寺)
entrance of many steps
Small, Well-Tended Graveyard -- Anyoji Temple (安養寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/13, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Small, Well-Tended Graveyard

I strolled around the area a bit and finally came across a place I'd been before, a nice set of steps set in a mossy hillside, just off a small road. I'd seen it just once, 2½ years ago, but recognized it instantly.

So with that point of reference in place, I returned to the big bell at the Chion'in Temple, and headed down to the vast expanse of dusty gravel... only to be surprised yet again by how much I hadn't realized existed.

Continued here...


All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

Did you happen to get a photo of the top of the bell? I’m curious as to how the heavy weight is transferred to the surrounding wood structure. Very interesting photos.

I’m also interested in that, but need to head back when there’s more light and I have better lenses. Believe me, it’s on the agenda! —Jeffrey

— comment by Tom in SF on October 31st, 2014 at 9:20am JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

What we (your sister and I) would like you to figure out is how to :
1. Have you ring that big bell

2. Record yourself doing so

3. With sound

4. Post it so we can all hear it too.

5. Also post address where we should send bail money, should it be needed.

6. And legal fees also.

Can (should) it be done???

Sadly, the bell is fenced off. Judging by the many ropes that would hang from the log used to ring it (were they not bundled up and set on top of the log), it looks like it’s not quite a one-man operation to begin with. —Jeffy

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on October 31st, 2014 at 1:10pm JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

An interesting Wikipedia article on these bells:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonsh%C5%8D

Very nice, thanks! —Jeffrey

— comment by Tom in SF on November 5th, 2014 at 7:36am JST (2 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...


All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.


You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting