Day 18: Chaos and Peace

Sunday March 13th, 2011 by Giel Op 't Veld

Despite recent events, we woke up this morning at the Senju-in temple at Mount Shigisan. We started the day at 6am for a traditional Buddhist ceremony. Chanting, drums, traditional fires and a less traditional (but tasty) breakfast were just some of the elements of the morning prayer. As Europeans, we know quite little about Buddhism so everything was new to us, including some of the foods!

When we left the temple, still early in the morning, we took some time enjoy the vicinity. The sun was shining, one could not hear a sound and being cut off from television and internet gave us a very weird moment to enjoy total peace and rest, while we knew that the country was in shock.

We continued our program with a visit to Nara, the former capital of Japan. This city is currently celebrating the Shuni-e ceremony, the festival of water and fire, and just like us Nara continued her daily life. The Great Buddha at Todai-ji (24m in height!) was impressive, but also as crowded as one would expect. In addition, we visited the Kofuki-ji temple, which was unfortunately partially undergoing some reconstructions. The rest of the day was off and most of us just strolled through the city which still had a lot to offer. Whether it was visiting the many Buddhist temples, the more authentic districts or just shopping for souvenirs, the participants enjoyed themselves.
We have no clue whether the crowdedness of the city today was normal, but it appeared as if the people of Nara were quite busy preparing for tonight’s celebrations just like every year. This part of the country actually shows very little impact of the earthquake or the aftermath.

Now, we have moved to our hotel in Osaka. We have been reconnected to the internet here so it’s easier for us to follow the news and reply to messages from homea. We have not seen much of the city yet, but luckily we will have time for that tomorrow.


Day 17: Special rituals in a temple

Saturday March 12th, 2011 by Rick van Kemenade

Today the participants woke up in Kyoto for the last time. The morning program was free. Many spent the morning at the imperial palace, where they had applied earlier during the week to be able to visit. The fact that the palace was across the street from the hotel made this a very convenient excursion. Others decided to wake up late to recover from the tiring days that preceded this one.

Early in the afternoon the entire party gathered at Kyoto’s central station. From here, we took the JR train to Osaka, from where we travelled on to Shigisan, a small town in the Nara prefecture. The large luggage had been sent ahead to Osaka, since it would only cause inconvenience at the temple. There was a plan to walk up the hill that housed the temple. Unfortunately it started raining when we arrived at the station and we were slightly behind on schedule, so the group boarded a bus instead.

The full bus clearly had a rough time tugging 32 Europeans up a mountain. We finally made it to the right bus stop and entered the Senju-in Temple complex. We were welcomed by the monks who reside there. The men and women were taken to separate sleeping halls and the rules and (early) timetable were explained. After that we enjoyed a very special diner on our knees, with new and interesting flavours for all.

After diner, there was time to walk around the temple area. Some decided to walk all the way up the hill, while others watched the devastating earthquake news (fortunately far away from our area) on a small television screen. Later on, there was time to enjoy the hot tub and lights went out at 22:00, to rise very, very early the next morning.


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