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March, 2016

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Fortified by a traditional but simple Japanese lunch, the next stop on our Kyoto city tour was the Buddhist temple Kiyomizu-dera, (which means Pure Water Temple), founded in 780. It is set on the top of a forested hill and so we were glad our guide, Chiaki, suggested getting a taxi to the top and walking back down.

First of all we saw the vivid bright orange, three storey, Koyasu pagoda which apparently had been painted for the visit of Michelle Obama in March 2015. A visit is said to bring about an easy and safe childbirth, thankfully not to be tested by us all.

We walked up to a wooden stage jutting out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. It’s a noted place for people jumping off although few are said to survive. The main hall and stage were both built without the use of nails and houses. In the main hall is the temple’s primary object of worship, a small statue of the eleven faced, forty two armed Kannon. Views from here of Kyoto are good and are enhanced by pink cherry blossom in spring and red maple leaves in the autumn. Lots of girls of all ages were wearing Kimonos which can be hired in the town for ¥3000 a day. Chiaki said it’s a bit like putting on your Sunday best.

On walking back down, there was a long line of people queuing to drink water from the Otowa Waterfall which was divided into three separate streams each having a different benefit: longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life. On the basis I don’t want to live to be 100, have passed my school days and got married last year, I didn’t bother to queue to drink from the cups attached to long poles.

The walk back into Kyoto took us down an interesting pedestrian street lined with various types of shops selling souvenirs including lots of matcha (green tea) products including sweets which we tasted although they were as revolting as the tea we’d tasted earlier in our trip..

Just before we reached town was a stone where Chiaki said we should say and pray and try to lift up the stone. If we succeeded, the prayer would come true. I couldn’t even lift it an inch!

Helen Jackson

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