On the way to Nara.

Every Saturday I go with my family to Nara city to spend the day and go shopping. It is about 20 kilometers  down the mountain. This last Saturday, about half the way down, we decided to stop and buy some vegetables. Everyone decided at that point they couldn’t go any further without nourishment. We bought prepared rice and decided to eat it at a shrine that is directly next to the vegetable stand and one which we have passed hundreds of times. The picture of the rice doesn’t really do it justice. My son Julian had half eaten it by the time I got my camera out, after gobbling mine down in a few minutes. It had three kinds of mushrooms, chestnuts,  two types of wild mountain vegetables, carrots,  and a garnishment of maple leaves. All for 100 yen, roughly 90 cents. It was delicious, so much so I wanted to run and go buy a couple more.

The shrine is  supported by the community, run by a family that has been running it for generations. There is a memorial park, Ohaka, in the rear area that probably brings in a fair amount of  income. I was really impressed by the roof tiles. Very nice. I was also fascinated by the condition of the shrine. Since it isn’t a national treasure or situated in a location that brings a lot of foot traffic, all maintenance and cleaning is either done by the resident family or the community. There is a National Treasure shrine down the road from this that is absolutely stunning. I am sure the maintenance budget for that one is an order or two larger than this one.

The picture of the statue has an inscription that reads “The person that accompanies you on your travels” or some approximation of that. I don’t know the iconography but the warazori, ricestraw sandals, were used by itinerant monks, may still be. There is a  shrine on Shigi mountain in Nara that has warazori offerings at the gate, pairs and pairs of sandals piled up at the gate. There is a fascinating story in the Kyoto Journal on the initiation of monks into a certain sect in Kyoto that go through an unbelievable initiation to become ordained at a certain level. see http://www.lehigh.edu/~dmd1/holly.html or www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/jjrs/pdf/300.pdf

The first link is different from the Kyoto Journal story but captures the difficulty.


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One Response to “On the way to Nara.”

  1. ted Says:

    This Tendai training is still ongoing. The public can join them for one night of the year, usually July 28. i wrote briefly about it here;


    The full training takes 7 years and the number of those who complete it is quite low. One man is now in his 7th year, and if he is successful, he’ll be the first in many years.

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