Circle the Arctic 2015

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June 12, 2015 - Day 1

It didn't rain.

Instead, of all things, Kyoto was hot (88 degrees) and humid – all day. I haven't seen weather like that since Washington, D.C. It's supposed to be even hotter tomorrow.

We spent the sightseeing day at four temples. I thought that I would be out of my mind with boredom but was pleasantly surprised.

The first Temple was the Golden Pagoda, a Buddhist Temple. Unbelievably crowded. School children everywhere. Every picture you tried to take had a child in it. But the grounds of the shrine were exquisite. Moss and grass and pines and red maples everywhere.

Vintage photo of Golden PagodaGolden PagodaI had been in Kyoto between 45 and 50 years ago. I took a picture of a golden structure that was a favorite of mine (it's the one on the left). The original was damaged and the picture I carry around with me required considerable work with Photoshop to make it presentable. I was able to take the same photo again today, from the same spot.

Another temple, Sanjusangendo, featured statues of One Thousand One Buddhas, each Sanjusangendoabout five feet tall. No pictures were allowed in the building but the huge warehouse-like structure had sculptures in the forefront of gods from the Hindu and Buddhist mythology and rows upon rows of gold plated, multi-armed statutes behind. In fact, the display reminded me of the terracotta soldiers of Xian, China, except that instead of being in a pit (Xian) the 1001 multi-armed buddhas were arranged on bleacher-like terraces. Like Xian, the statutes were created by many individual sculptors so that while similar overall, each was somewhat unique.

A third temple, Tofukuji, a Zen Temple complex, was a group of very large structures that have been around for hundreds of years. There was not much to talk about with this site except that it was large and old.

6,000 GatesThe final Temple featured 6,000 "gates". The gates are tall columns painted a bright orange and arranged in an arcade-like structure. Each one is ascribed with a prayer or wish to the gods. These individual columns are sold and provided revenue to the Temple. The practice is somewhat like the money-raising practice of selling bricks or tiles to help finance a new public structure in our country. To walk thru all the arcades formed by these pole corridors (all 6,000) would take four hours as the arcades snakes up across a mountainside. We also saw a Shinto priest blessing a new car. Why not.

The rest of the day was lunch in an "authentic" Japanese restaurant — I thought it was awful but Carol it was great. That was followed by a visit to a Sake factory — interesting. We had a group dinner in a nearby restaurant that was not even up to lunch standards, and Carol agreed.

Because our group is made up of a preponderance of seasoned travelers, it is pulling together quickly.

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