SANJUSANGENDO HALL, KYOTO

After checking into the Westin our first stop (after a big Japanese lunch) was this hall, home to 1001 life-sized wooden statues of Kannon, goddess of mercy.

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Like many of the temples, they offered souvenirs and in this case, an important question.

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The temple itself is amazing (but as you can see – no pictures allowed).

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It is the home to a ritual where Buddhist priests touch people’s heads with a sacred willow to cure headaches and popular for an annual archery (long bow) contest that started hundreds and hundreds of years ago. As you can see by the length of the building, there is lots of room for the 1001 carvings in this 800 year old building. I wish I would have been allowed to shoot the carvings, the detail was jaw-dropping.

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Surrounded by other shrines and beautiful gardens, it was a great first stop on our Kyoto tour.

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Good start.

WHAT IS A JAPANESE SWASTIKA?

 

It is odd to see a map (i.e. Google maps) with swastika’s all over them – very common in Japan. A quick web search will tell you that it represents a temple:

The earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient India as well as Classical Antiquity. Swastikas have also been used in various other ancient civilizations around the world. It remains widely used in Indian religions, specifically in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, primarily as a tantric symbol to evoke shakti or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit svastika – “su” meaning “good,” “asti” meaning “to be,” and “ka” as a suffix. The swastika literally means “to be good”.

In East Asia, the swastika is a Chinese character, defined by Kangxi Dictionary, published in 1716, as “synonym of myriad, used mostly in Buddhist classic texts“,[1] by extension, the word later evolved to represent eternity and Buddhism.

For most of us, it means something very different. I came across one the other day on a beautiful temple.

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Beside many temples are cemeteries with beautiful stonework.

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I did some reading on Japanese graves as I was curious about the wooden items around the graves.

Often, the name is also written on a sotoba, a separate wooden board on a stand behind or next to the grave. These sotoba may be erected shortly after death, and new ones may be added at certain memorial services.

The vast majority of burials are cremation and the plots are multi-generational family plots. When we were in England I found the grave sites fascinating, they tell a story. They warrant exploration as we settle in and go wandering.

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