|Kyōto and Kamakura|
Kyōto and Kamakura are forever linked in my mind because they have so many things in common, even though they are completely different. I fell in love with both cities, for different reasons. I've already told you a bit about Kamakura. I also told you about spending an afternoon with a rock garden in Kyōto. (Follow the links to my earlier blog posts.) Today I'd like to compare and contrast the two cities a bit and tell you a little more of what I loved about them. Most of the pictures for this blog post are from
|Golden Pavilion in summer|
(右京, right capital) is on the left (west), while the Sakyō sector (左京 left capital) is on the right (east).
|Golden Pavilion in winter|
The succeeding Shōgunate moved their capital to Kamakura, which is why I say that Kamakura was also a capital city of Japan. The Tokugawa clan moved their capital to the town of Edo (modern-day Tōkyo), and when Emperor Meiji took back political power for the Imperial Family, he formally moved the capital to Tōkyo. Kyōto remains the capital of Hyōgo Prefecture.
|Silver Pavilion - no silver!|
|Geisha - they wear their kimono neck|
much lower than usual, and they put
makeup on their back, neck and face.
It's ironic that Emperor Kammu moved his capital to Kyōto in order to avoid interference from Buddhist priests, who were, at that time, getting to be politically powerful. The reason? Kyōto now has 1600 Buddhist temples and only 400 Shintō shrines. As for politics, there is actually a Buddhist political party in Japan, called Kōmeitō, funded by the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, but it has never held a majority in the Japanese governing body called the Diet. There have been backlashes against Buddhism at certain times in Japan's history, the most recent of which was at the beginning of Emperor Meiji's reign. Nowadays, however, the two religions coexist peacefully, for the most part, as I've written before. Shintō is the informal state religion of Japan, and so-called "ultra-nationalists" tend to favor Shintō, but the religion does not back any particular political party. There was one party formed in 2005 that was based on Shintō beliefs, but it was disbanded in 2013. The Association of Shintō Shrines remains a powerful political lobby, and has influence with the Education Ministry, as well.
As I wrote before, Kamakura is also full of Buddhist temples – 65 of them, as opposed to only 19 Shintō shrines. Since the samurai warlords who established Kamakura as their center of government favored Zen Buddhism, Zen temples are prominent in Kamakura. There are Zen temples in Kyōto, as well. The biggest difference between the temples in Kyōto and the ones in Kamakura is that the Kyōto temples are famous for their gardens, both plant gardens and rock gardens, while Kamakura temples have more cemeteries that tourists can wander around in.
|Torii Gate at Heian-jingu|
I was able to see all the most famous temples and shrines, including the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) and the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji). The Golden Pavilion actually has gold-foil on it, and it shines in the sunlight, especially when the ground is covered with snow. It was originally the villa of a rich nobleman who ordered that it be turned into a Buddhist temple upon his death. Like a lot of temples in Japan, Kinkakuji suffered damage from fires a number of times throughout its history, and had to be rebuilt. (Japanese temples always have a building plan secreted in a remote location in case of fire, and the Japanese are famous for rebuilding their temples exactly to original specifications. I learned this from a Japanese architect.) When the temple was rebuilt in 1955, it was said that the gold-leaf covering was probably more extensive than in the original structure. (If so, I'm glad.) The burning of the temple by the monk was fictionalized by writer Yukio Mishima in his book, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
|Main Gate at Heian-jingu|
Another favorite of mine in Kyōto is Ryōan-ji, the temple where my friend Mitsuko and I spent a rainy afternoon gazing at the famous rock garden. In addition, I loved Kiyomizu-dera, the "Pure Water" Temple, named after a waterfall that exists within its complex. Kiyomizu-dera is located on a steep hill, and the large veranda at the back of the temple looks out over a sheer cliff covered with dense foliage. The most amazing fact about Kiyomizu-dera is that it was built entirely without nails, using a technique called joinery. (American log cabins were often built this way, as well, but the technique is slightly different in Japan.) The temple was originally constructed in 1633.
|Sale of Kiyomizu-yaki for use with altars and family graves|
|The scaffolding holding up the back veranda at |
Kiyomizu-dera. Keep in mind there are no nails
whatsoever in this structure!
|Cloisonné: Metal base before the ceramic |
paste is filled in.
|After the ceramic paste has been filled in and fired|
Cloisonné (shippo-yaki) jewelry was a favorite of mine. My great-aunt Gertrude bought a gorgeous bracelet in Japan back in the 40s or 50s that I still have, and I found similar, but more modern items when I was there. Cloisonné is silver and gold shaped into three-dimensional designs, then filled with colored ceramic paste and fired in a kiln. The technique began in Byzantium, traveled to China, and then to Japan, where the Japanese gave the technique their own little twist.
|Traditional pickles sold in Kyōto|
|Yaki imo seller's truck|
|Traditional yaki imo man with wooden trolley that he pulls along.|
|Nama yatsuhashi, cherry-blossom, cinnamon and|
green tea flavors
|The sweet azuki bean paste inside yatsuhashi.|