Friday, March 20, 2015

Photo Friday #2: Heian Shrine! フォト金曜日#2:平安神宮!

フォト金曜日#2:平安神宮!Photo Friday #2: Heian Shrine!

Happy Friday...and happy spring! March 20 is the vernal equinox, bringing with it the promise of warmer weather for the northern hemisphere. For today's Photo Friday post, I'm again looking back to two years ago today, during my first trip to Japan. Two years ago we were in Kyoto, and we spent the first day of spring shrine-hopping:

The grounds of Heian-jingu, Heian Shrine
平安神宮:Heian-jingu (Heian Shrine)
March 20, 2013 was a day much like today: though it was the first day of spring in Kyoto, there was a chill in the air, and the skies were overcast and rainy. After breakfast at Kyoto Station--donuts from MisDo and coffee from Cafe du Monde--we hopped on a city bus and set off to visit Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

Shinto is Japan's most enduring religion, and along with Buddhism, it continues to be an important part of Japanese life and culture today. When in Japan, there's no place quite like Kyoto so well-known for its connection to Shinto and Buddhism: one could spend weeks in the city just visiting shrines and temples. They're absolutely everywhere, and they're known the world over. Having seen so many photos and references to Heian Shrine in popular culture (scenes from Lost in Translation and Memoirs of a Geisha come to mind), I knew we had to see it for ourselves.

Heian Shrine in Okazaki, Kyoto wasn't the first Shinto shrine we visited, but it was among the newest: the shrine was actually built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Japan's capital Heian (Heian being one of many of Kyoto's former names), and honors the spirits of the first and last emperors to rule Japan from Kyoto. Heian Shrine is a scale model of the original Imperial Palace built in 794, which was destroyed by fire in 1227. Fires were a problem for Kyoto's wooden shrines even into the 20th century, as a 1976 fire destroyed several structures at Heian Shrine. Donations were collected, and the buildings were rebuilt three years later.

I really enjoy this photo I took on the grounds of Heian Shrine, with a little girl playing in the gravel as her parents continued ahead. We enjoyed watching the family perform temizu, the ritual Shinto purification, and wondered what it would be like to be raised in a city steeped in such history and tradition. (To put it into perspective, the American city where I currently live was chosen as the state's capital in 1820 and is looking forward to its bicentennial in 2020, but Kyoto became Japan's capital in 794, and was the Imperial capital of Japan for over 1,000 years!)

The grounds were practically empty that day, as it was a rainy weekday afternoon, so it had an especially serene, spiritual feel. Although I've only visited a fraction of Kyoto's shrines--some say they number close to 2,000!--I would definitely recommend visiting Heian Shrine. Here, you can get a feel of what Imperial life must have been like centuries ago, and as you stroll through its iconic gardens, you'll forget you're in the middle of a major metropolitan city.

No comments:

Post a Comment