If there is one thing Ian seems to love in Japan it's weird statues. And as for me, I am in love with the gardens. So when I was researching Arashiyama, the western side of Kyoto, I knew that the two must-see things were Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, a Buddhist shrine with hundreds of weird statues of Buddha making different faces or doing different things, and Tenryou-ji, the oldest garden in Japan. The trek to Otagi Nenbutsu-ji was probably the longest voyage you could make in the Arashiyama area from the station, and it was hard not to get distracted when there is basically a temple or historical place every 20 feet. In fact, at one point I needed to use the restroom and wandered into a residential spot that looked like it might have a restroom, but actually turned out to be Rakushisha, the home of Mukai Kyorai, one of the students of Basho, Japan's most famous haiku poet. Rakushisha is the "Hut of Fallen Persimmons" because the night before Kyorai was going to go to the market and sell them, a huge storm came and blew them all down and destroyed them. All in all, the home was a nice insight to what traditional life might have been like as opposed to the large temple and palaces I've seen so far. The set up was simple, but could easily be translated to homes today and reminded me of the interior seen in Howl's Moving Castle.
After our stop at Rakushisha, we were back on track to finding Otagi Nenbutsu-ji. After many more statue distractions as seen above, we finally made it to a Nenbutsuji, but not the Nenbutsu-ji we were looking for. "This is not the Nenbutsuji you are looking for..." (see top photo, lower right image) Still, Adashino Nenbutsu-ji was quite nice, housing a ton of rocks surrounding one larger Buddha statue. As it turns out, those "rocks" are actually statues that have just been weathered, with each statue representing a soul of the dead. Finally, we were almost to the main attraction: Otagi Nenbutsu-ji. Hooray! Still about a 10 minute walk away, we at last had arrived and were happily greeted by many adorable Buddha statues. A stark contrast to the weathered "rocks" we saw at Adashino, the statues are much more contemporary, having been created in the 80s. The statues were very light-hearted in nature, conveying the simple things in life that make people happy such as boxing, playing with cats, listening to music on a Walkman, wearing your hair up in a rockabilly pomp, you know, things like that.
Once we had thoroughly enjoyed the company of these happy Buddha statues, it was time to make our trek back to the main area of Arashiyama. At this point it was probably about 3 hours after we had arrived and my feet were really killing me. I hadn't really eaten and I had kind of forgotten what I even wanted to do at Tenryou-ji, but we still decided we needed to go see it. And thank goodness we did! How could I have forgotten it housed the oldest garden in Japan?! While the cherry blossoms were not really in bloom yet in Kyoto, the other flora was delightfully vibrant. The following photos are unfiltered (just like Ian prefers his sake), so just realize these flowers truly were this bright and colorful! Such a beautiful sight!
After our day in Arashiyama, we were ready to see the night-lit gardens in central Kyoto near Yasaka Shrine since we had missed it the night before. Unfortunately, Ian got his dates wrong and the gardens would not be lit up until the next day.. So it was closed and we decided we ought to go get dinner in Gion before heading home. Luckily, on our walk toward Gion, we accidently found Yasaka shrine and Maruyama park which had been on my agenda of things I wanted to do. Yasaka Shrine was closed, but it was still pretty to pass by and Maruyama was a lovely walk as well, lined with Cherry Blossoms and people getting ready to celebrate hanami, despite the fact that the blossoms weren't really in full bloom yet. Once we made the walk to Gion area, we found a ramen shop and had a rather yummy set meal of ramen, rice and gyoza. The ramen was tasty--I don't know what specifically made it special, but I was pretty pleased. Here's a photo since I know that's what half of you are here to look at anyways. :p