Thursday, July 22, 2010

Japan Trip - Part 4

I went to visit the famous Shinsho-Ji temple grounds found in Narita which is a quick walk from Narita Town and the JR station. There is the grand entranceway with lots of people around. There is a place to wash yourself and drink water. As you make your way in, you have to climb a lot of stairs to make your way upwards. You'll find little statues, relics, lanterns, ponds, fountains and even gravestones. Turtles inhabit the ponds near the rocks. Towards the top is a place to pray for the dead. Little girls would run up there, ring the bell a few times, clap their hands twice then with their palms together, bow quickly then run back down.

At the summit you'll find some beautiful buildings which are the main areas for worshiping. Inside are statues to Buddha and other spiritual beings. People deposit coins and buy charms and fortunes. Prayer tiles are placed on posts. Monks walk around, and before the evening service begins, one in yellow robes came out and rang the bell with a hammer until a procession of them under red pagoda umbrellas climbs up the stairs towards the main altar. I was unable to take pictures of the inside of the main temple. To enter you have to take of your shoes and be quiet and photography is not allowed. I watched from outside, as apparently if you wanted to go in, you'd have to bow in acknowledgment towards the Buddha, so it's something only for those who follow the faith, so I saw what I could from outside, but it was quite beautiful to look at.

Nearby is an area where you can pour yourself some hot water or oolong or green tea. It's free and you can have as much as you want, providing you wash your cup afterwards and return it. It was quite a serene atmosphere, especially when the monks begin praying and chanting. The architecture of the buildings dates back a really long way, perhaps these are the oldest in all of Japan and they're still so well kept. There are intricate carvings of stories and dragons and lions out of solid blocks of wood. As you venture past the main temple, you realize that you can still climb up further where even more beauty can be found.