A Visit (or Four) to Kyoto’s Ushio Kannon Temple
Getting My Bell Rung at the Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音), Kyoto Japan photo by Ionut Sandu -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting My Bell Rung
at the Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音), Kyoto Japan
photo by Ionut Sandu

(Only iPhone photos today, sorry)

The other day I went for a ride with Ionut and his friend Suzuki-san (view on Strava). We started with the two-part climb up to th Ushio Kannon Temple in the Yamashina area of Kyoto.

The first part is 2.1 km (1.3 miles) at 8%, which isn't so bad unless the road is wet, in which case it's suicide. In the most-steep areas entire width of the road is inexplicably painted red (perhaps to warn you to the steepness?) but the paint makes for a ridiculously slippery surface when wet.

Here's a photo from a ride in June when it was wet:

Unsafe at Any Speed one day last June 今年の6月、濡れたのでメッチャ滑りやすい -- Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 80 — map & image datanearby photos
Unsafe at Any Speed
one day last June
今年の6月、濡れたのでメッチャ滑りやすい

The paint develops a sheen of green moss that also appears on the non-red areas, but the paint seems to both foster the moss, and increase its slipperiness. It was sufficiently dangerous that time in June that I was scared to even hobble along by foot.

Anyway, I don't recommend this road when it's wet.

It wasn't wet this most recent time, and in trying to keep up with Ionut and Suzuki-san, I set my PR (personal record) for the first part of the climb, so that was nice.

That first part leads to a parking lot, from which a second, more sinister climb emerges, the 460m at 18% Final Death Climb. Here's the video from my bike's front camera:

(There's also a video of the climb last January, from my bike's back camera.)

This was the fourth time I've done this climb, and I'm still scared every time to start it, praying that I don't lose footing and fall over. So far so good. I thought it would have been the slowest time I'd done it, as I didn't put that much effort (relatively speaking) into it, but it turns out it was my fastest of the four efforts, so hooray for a new PR here, too.

End of the Climb emerging up from lower right photo from January 登りの終点、今年の1月 -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
End of the Climb
emerging up from lower right
photo from January
登りの終点、今年の1月
After My First Climb in January 最初の登り、今年の1月 -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/320 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
After My First Climb
in January
最初の登り、今年の1月
After My Second Climb also in January 二つ目の登り、今年の1月 -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/1050 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
After My Second Climb
also in January
二つ目の登り、今年の1月

Back to the recent climb with Ionut and Suzuki-san, at the end of the video you can see a member of the temple staff come out to chat and offer us a refreshing shiso drink.

The guy is very friendly, and we ended up spending an hour with him as he kindly showed us around.

Heading To the Back -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 64 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading To the Back
Waterfall under which devotions are performed -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Waterfall
under which devotions are performed

Adherents stand under the water, usually in winter, for five minutes at a time to pray (similar to what this guy is about to do). We were offered the opportunity to do it, but we politely declined. 🙂

We did pose for a photo, though.

Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 50 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading Back -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 50 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading Back
Lots of Stuff -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/4 sec, f/2.2, ISO 80 — map & image datanearby photos
Lots of Stuff

He showed us some of the temple's treasures, old and new, including a two-part carving of a dragon. One part can be seen above, the tail diving into the ground (the other part is the head emerging). It was carved just a couple of years ago, by a chainsaw artist!

Like many temples, this one has a big bell, but at this temple, one is encouraged to stand in the bell when it's rung.

Suzuki-san in the Bell -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/450 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Suzuki-san in the Bell
Ionut's Turn -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/40 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Ionut's Turn

It's not as loud as one might imagine, and being so close, you can hear the rich tone for a long time. I stood listening for about 40 seconds before I was called out.

Chant “ Lyrics ” Cheat Sheet -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/190 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Chant Lyrics Cheat Sheet

He explained about a festival coming up where they do Buddhist chanting. This is a lyrical kind of chant that leaves non-native Japanese speakers like me wondering is this really Japanese? Do native Japanese actually understand it?. This time I asked, to which the quick answer from the two Japaneses native present was no and no.

That's why he has a cheat sheet available, showing the pronunciation. The actual chant books they use were 100+ years old, airing out on the temple's tatami floor in preparation for the festival.

(We've seen this kind of chant lyrics on my blog before, at the top of Setsubun Festival at the Heian Shrine: Intense Burn Begins.)

Explaining Some History -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/1500 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Explaining Some History

From the train advertisement poster, dated January 1938, one can see that this temple used to be directly related to the famous Kiyomizu Temple a few miles away (last seen on my blog here). That temple has a very brisk tourist trade and they make money hand over fist. As the story goes, they apparently got tired of paying a tithe back to the head of their sect, so a bit over 50 years ago they left the sect (and the relationship with this temple) to stand on their own and keep all their profits.

He's also got some photos from up on the mountain above the temple. Similar views are seen when riding up by bicycle, as I did here.

Ready To Continue Our Ride -- Ushio Kannon Temple (牛尾観音) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/120 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Ready To Continue Our Ride

Having spent so long at the temple, Ionut was running out of time for a ride, so we just headed over to Otsu to Sajo Towson (茶丈藤村) for coffee and sweets, and to introduce him to the cyclist owner, and the cyclist waitress seen on this blog post.

Tasty Snack in progress -- 茶丈藤村 (Sajo Towson) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/15 sec, f/2.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Tasty Snack
in progress
photo by Yoshino Higuchi -- 茶丈藤村 (Sajo Towson) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 6+ — 1/220 sec, f/2.2, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
photo by Yoshino Higuchi

Ionut quickly headed back to Kyoto and his errands, while Suzuki-san and I took a longer route through some mountains toward Uji. Suzuki-san is much faster than I am, so in trying to keep up with him (and trying to beat dusk), I ended up making PRs on all four climbs back to Kyoto, so that was nice.

I didn't have clear eye protection with me, and it was too dark to safely wear my sunglasses, so no PR attempts on the descents. I don't like going much beyond 30kph (20mph) without something to protect my eyes from bugs and raindrops. Even as it was, I ended up averaging 45kph (28mph) on this descent, which eye-wise is relying on luck more than I'd care.


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