Becoming Beautiful at Sennyu-ji

February 10, 2011

by Susuki Rie, Aya Suzuki, and Yuino Takenaka

Sennyu-ji

Sennyu-ji is a Buddhist temple that is located in Higashiyama-ku in Kyoto, near Toufukuji. It was founded in the Heian period and is dedicated to the Amida Buddha, Shaka Buddha, and Miroku Buddha. This temple is commonly called Mitera or Midera and originated as a small hermitage where the Emperor Kouhou-Taishi lived during the Tencho era (824-834). In the temple, there are imperial tombs of the successive emperors, including emperor Gohorikawa, Emperor Shijo of the Kamakura period, Emperor Gomizuono of the Edo period and many other emperors who came after him.

When you visit Sennyu-ji, you pass under a big wooden gate. On your left you will see the Youkihi-kannon-zo enshrined in the Yang Guifei Kannon-do. This is a sculpture that combines the Kannon, the Buddhist Boshisattva of Mercy, with the Empress Yang Guifei, an empress of Tang-dynasty China. So the sculpture is also called the Yang Guifei Kannon-zo. This statue is an Important Cultural Property. It was made in China and brought to Japan in 230. It is said its exquisite beauty is because it was made as a way for Yang Giuifei’s lover, the Tang-dynasty Chinese Emperor Xuanzong, to pay his last respects to her.

Yang Guifei

Yang Guifei was also known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China and one of the three most beautiful women of the world. She was also known as the woman who caused the An Shi Rebellion, because the Emperor Xuanzong loved her too much. The Yangs were taking power, especially Yang Guifei’s cousin, Yang Guozhong. Jiedushi An Lushan revolted against the Yangs because of their despotic behavior (the An Shi Rebellion). He said that the cause of this rebellion was the Yangs and demanded Emperor Xuanzong to do away with them. Yang Guifei was killed by her eunuch. She died at age 38 in 756.
It is said that the person who prays to this sculpture of Yang Guifei will be able to become beautiful. So many Japanese women visit this temple to pray for beauty. Also, good-luck charms for beauty are sold at this temple.If you want to become beautiful, please come to this temple and pray to this Yang Guifei Kannon-zo.

Further on beyond the gate of Sennyu-ji is the Butsuden, the temple building where the main Buddhist image is enshrined, and the Shariden, or reliquary hall. Behind these buildings are the Reimyouden, the Gozashyo and the Tsukunowaryo, which are all halls closely connected to the Imperial family. On top of the tiled roof of the Butsuden are two tile ogres. If you look at the ogres’ eyes from a distance of 1.5 meters, they say you will be able to see the eyes sparkle. According to a long-held tradition, it is said that if you can see the eyes of tile ogres shine, then you will be able to get married in the future. Please take a look and see if you can see them sparkling. The beautiful shapes of these temple buildings especially stand out in the seasons of fresh green and colored leaves.

Personal Impression

It was the first time for us to visit Sennyu-ji. One day, our friend told us about Sennyu-ji and Yang Guifei. Neither of them are very well known. In fact, we didn’t know them either. But we were interested in Sennyu-ji and Yang Guifei. We were very surprised that the temple was very big and beyond all expectations. Our friend told us, “If you pray to Yang Guifei, you can become beautiful.” So we prayed and bought a good luck charm for beauty.

We went to Sennyu-ji in the season of colored leaves, so when we passed under the big gate, we could see the temple matched with leaves which were colored yellow and red. We thought it was so beautiful and we were moved. Two eyes of the ogre were really shining mysteriously. We could have many good experiences at the temple. Sennyu-ji is not famous but we think it is a good unknown spot and is worth a visit. If you visit Sennyu-ji, you can buy some Japanese sweets nearby. We bought some and they were so delicious and beautifully made. We think if you visit Sennyu-ji, you can be satisfied with both the temple and foods.

Near the temple are many places of interest, especially the temples of Tofuku-ji and Unryu-in. In this area they sell some traditional sweets: sekihan manju (steamed bun), mikasa manju (two small pancakes with bean jam in between), and miso dango (dumpling with sweet miso paste).

Access

By Bus
Nearest bus stop: Sennyuji michi
From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station: Shijo-Kawaramachi bus stop ( No 207)
From Kintetsu Kyoto Station (Exit Karasuma): City bus (No 208)
From Kintetsu Touji Station: City bus (No 202 207 208)
From Gion-Shijo Station: City bus (No 207)

By Taxi
From Kintetsu Station (Exit Hachijou)
Necessary time: 5 minutes to Sennyuji Michi

By JR line
Nearest station: Tofukuji Station (Nara line)
10-minute walk

Fees
Adult: 500 yen
Elementary school student: 300 yen

Map: http://kyoto.asanoxn.com/places/higashiyama_sth/smhgymap.htm

Sanjusangendo

Hiroyuki Hamamoto


Sanjusangendo è il nome con cui è conosciuto un tempio buddista che contiene un famoso edificio costruito per ospitare mille statue del bodhisattva Kannon (Avalokiteshvara). Il nome formale del tempio è Rengeoin, e Sanjusangendo è propriamente il nome dell’edificio principale.

Il nome Sanjusangendo, “Il padiglione dei 33 spazi”, è derivato da una caratteristica architettonica: ci sono 33 spazi fra i pilastri della facciata. Il numero allude al numero delle manifestazioni di Kannon, il bodhisattva compassionevole che assume 33 diverse forme per poter salvare tutti gli esseri umani.

L’imperatore Goshirakawa lo fece originariamente costruire all’interno di uno dei suoi palazzi nella seconda metà del periodo Heian, con l’aiuto finanziario di Taira no Kiyomori, un personaggio molto potente a quei tempi. Però l’edificio originale bruciò a causa del grande incendio di Kyoto del 1249, e quello che si vede attualmente è stato ricostruito nel 1266.

Durante il periodo in cui Kyoto fu capitale del Giappone furono costruiti numerosi edifici imponenti, ma la maggior parte fu distrutta in breve tempo a causa dei frequenti incendi e terremoti. Perciò i carpentieri hanno utilizzato numerose tecniche antisismiche ingegnose nella costruzione di Sanjusangendo, e ancora oggi possiamo ammirare l’edificio eretto nel 1266.

Le mille statue di Senju-Kannon occupano tutto lo spazio interno di Sanjusangendo. Ogni statua ha 11 visi e 40 mani. Tante mani rappresentano le mille mani (senju) con cui Kannon aiuta i mortali.

Centoventiquattro statue sono originali del periodo Heian, le altre sono state ricostruite nel periodo Kamakura impiegando 16 anni.

Si dice che si può trovare una statua che assomiglia a qualsiasi persona che si vuole vedere.
Al centro dell’edificio, in mezzo alle mille immagini di Kannon, è posta una statua di Senju-Kannon seduto considerata patrimonio artistico nazionale. Alta più di 3 metri, è fatta di legno di hinoki (cipresso giapponese), ed è interamente ricoperta da una pellicola di lacca Giapponese.

La statua centrale fu creata dal grande scultore di opere buddiste Tankei e dai suoi allievi durante la ricostruzione nel periodo Kamakura. Si dice che l’equilibrio dell’ intera figura, la determinazione solenne che si percepisce nel volto e l’espressione serena siano caratteristiche delle opere di Tankei.
Davanti alla statua di Tankei ci sono trenta statue di divinità buddiste originarie dell’India antica.

Toshiya e Yakazucho

Toshiya, che significa letteralmente “freccia che che ha colpito il bersaglio”, è una competizione di tiro con l’arco che si svolge all’interno del tempio. Le origini della competizione sono note solo attraverso la leggenda, ma si dice che esistesse già nel periodo Momoyama.

Toshiya si svolge lungo il lato meridionale del padiglione Sanjusangendo: gli arceri si posizionano all’estremità occidentale e tirano frecce a bersagli posti a 120 metri di distanza all’estremità orientale. Si tira un numero stabilito di frecce, e vince chi fa centro il maggior numero di volte. Ci sono varie categorie nella competizione: “Hyakui” (cento tiri), “Sen-i” (mille tiri) eccetera. Nel periodo Edo era popolarissima “Ooyakazu”, una gara in cui si tirava per 24 ore, dalla sera alla stessa ora del giorno seguente.

Nell’antico registro “Yakazucho” sono scritti i nomi dei partecipanti, le date, il numero di tiri, ecc. La voce più antica registra una Ooyakazu dell’aprile 1686, in cui il diciottenne Wasa Daihachiro di Kishu (un territorio che oggi si estende fra la prefettura di Wakayama e la prefettura di Mie) vinse con 8133 centri su 13053 tiri.

Arashiyama and Sagano

by Natsuki Kamikura and Satoko Kawaguchi

Arashiyama and Sagano are famous for the sights of cherry blossoms in spring and red leaves in fall. There are numerous temples and shrines, so it takes a lot of time to visit them all in a large area. However, you will spend a good time there. What follows are just some of the sights of this beautiful district in western Kyoto.

Togetsukyo

Togetsukyo is the famed “Crossing Moon Bridge” over the Katsura River. It is the very symbol of Arashiyama, and shows off its beauty. The original bridge was built in 836AD, the current one in 1934. Its piers are made from durable concrete and the bridge itself is made of wood. It is designed to match with the atmosphere of Arashiyama.

Tenryu-ji

Tenryu-ji temple, a World Heritage site, is very large and has a beautiful garden.It was established in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji, founder of the Muromachi bakufu (military government), who re-opened trade with China to raise funds for the building expenses. Over the centuries there have been eight fires in this temple, so most of the buildings were reconstructed. You will see a gate called Chokushi-mon, roofed over with cypress bark. This gate is the oldest structure in Tenryu-ji, and is said to have been transferred from Fushimi Castle. The Hiun kannon (a Goddess of Mercy) stands in front of the main temple. This kannon has a cloud on its back, symbolizing God and travel; it is said to protect people who travel by air. The kannon has a cross in her left hand for protecting people without regard to nationality or religion.

The most beautiful scene is Sogenchi, a garden with a pond. This garden is designed to “borrow” two nearby mountains, Arashiyama and Kameyama, to create a scene that gives the impression they belong to the garden. Tenryu-ji temple was among the first to be designated as a special sight in Japan.

 

Nonomiya shrine

Nonomiya shrine is surrounded with a bamboo grove, and it is well known that the Kuroki No Torii (black torii gate) and a brushwood fence which are both described in The Tale of Genji can be found there. This small shrine is famous for the kami (god) of relationships and learning, so many women seeking a good match and many students aiming to pass exams visit here.

When you go through the torii, you will find a stone to the left called Kame No Ishi. It is said that your wish will come true within a year if you touch and stroke the stone while praying. When you go to the right, you will find the moss garden. At the bottom of the shrine, there is a building for seeking the grace of being blessed with a child and an easy birth. Akishino-nomiya, son of the current emperor, and his wife Kiko visited this shrine. After that she had a child.

Rakushi-sha

Rakushi-sha, the “House of Falling Persimmons,” is the simple hut where Mukai Kyorai, one of pupils of haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), lived in his later years. Matsuo Basho stayed in this house too in 1689 and wrote Saga Diary. The house was reconstructed in the Meiji Period by Inoue Juko, a haiku poet from Kyoto.

You will see a straw raincoat and a rain hat. These mean that the owner is at home. Check and see! There are a lot of tablets inscribed with haiku and persimmon trees in the garden. One story says that the hut’s owner wanted to sell his persimmons while they were ripe on the tree, but they were blown down by a strong wind before his customers arrived! Perhaps you will want to write a tanka or haiku poem when you ramble through this garden. A special box is set up in Rakushi-sha for you, so you can drop your poem into it. The most excellent of these works are published in a haiku journal called Rakushi-sha. Let’s write about the beautiful nature of Arashiyama and Sagano.

Jojakko-ji

Jojakko-ji is famous for the sight of red leaves in Kyoto. In autumn you can walk a path which is covered with beautiful maples. You can look down from the top of the hill at Kyoto city if you climb the stairs. It is a little hard to climb, but the beautiful scene will reward you. You can even see as far away as Kyoto Tower.

Train and Rafting

If you want to experience nature keenly, you’d better take a special train. You can enjoy the grand natural scenery along the Hozu River and surrounding mountains. The train has only five cars, and car No. 5, “The Rich” is special. It’s a car without any glass windows or doors, so you’ll see the river, trees, and flowers directly. This train travels from Saga station to Kameoka station in about 25 minutes. Heading for Kameoka Station, you should sit on the right side for the best view.

When you reach beautiful sights, the train will stop for you and a conductor will explain about the spot. Staff take your pictures on the train and you can buy them if you want. They will be a memory of your train trip. When you arrive at Kameoka Station, you should try boating. Descend from Kameoka to Arashiyama on the Hozu River. You can enjoy a thrilling experience and talk with the boatman. This is a popular plan, so you should reserve a boat early. You’ve taken an interest in the Arashiyama-Sagano area, haven’t you? Come check it out with your own eyes! You will find many new things and interesting places.