Anniversary! (and Temple Set)
Something very important has come to pass. It was exactly a year ago I landed in Osaka, with a crapton of luggage, a business hotel room, and a blind desire to find something to do here. Beyond my strangest imagination, I have managed to hold on here.
Enjoy something small to celebrate.
Kyoto always has a way of finding something new for me. Often it’s hidden in plain sight. For instance, there’s a gigantic temple just north up Karasuma from Kyoto Station, but it never crossed me to actually go in.
It’s called Higashi-Honganji, one of the oldest temples of the indigenous Japanese Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. They’ve had a history since the middle ages as rabble-rousers, siding with the peasantry against the lords’ orders and even starting revolutions, and to this day, they do seem…intense in a way the older branches don’t. They weren’t very welcome in the ancient days for this reason, and many of their temples are very new, all built with modern architecture and materials.
This though, is one of the sect’s first lasting temples, originally built in the 16th century after the sect had signed a truce with conquering lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. That’s right, he couldn’t bring them to heel himself, but convinced them to make peace in exchange for more religious freedom. A fire in the 19th century destroyed it, and this incarnation was built back up in the early Meiji years, in the 1880s-1890s.
There are two large worship halls- the other is under renovation. Rather than wrap the building in scaffolding and close it to the public, the temple erected a large temporary building around the hall.
You get the strange feeling you’re not visiting a real temple, but a film set. Any second, the sound stage security are going to carry you out…
A few blocks west is a companion temple called Nishi-Honganji.
And behold, as I visited Nishi’s main hall, I saw an open service was being conducted. I entered, sat on the mats and listened to a performance of ancient court-style music and the reading of the chants before taking my leave.
So a year gone by.
Here’s to another.