So we specifically went to Arashiyama while we were in Kyoto, Japan to see Adashino-Nembutsu-ji and Otagi Nenbutsu-ji. And while they sound like they could be brothers, they have absolutely nothing in common. They, however, were tremendously intriguing and starkly different.
Could we first talk about the whimsical, entertaining brother:
He seemed to be one happy man and why not! He is right now living the life in a house nestled amongst the beautiful green hills of Sago-Arashiyama. To add to his merriment, he is always surrounded by his 1200 mates (called Rakans in Japanese). Yes, that is a crowd! It felt like a party every day, although his friends are always standing in a line (I wonder if they feel punished). I do think they have their moments in the day with Otagi.
All lined up!!! Picture Courtesy-theeconomicsocio
All of Otagis buddies are well fed, pudgy looking fellas with moss covered caps. Each of them exudes a human emotion either through their hands, their eyes, their facial expressions or actions. It is so much fun to simply just watch them. There is clearly never a dull moment in that house.
Love love love . Picture courtesy-theeconomicsocio
We spent hours with Otagi's friends and cannot fail to recommend this magical place to you.
In the meanwhile, Otagi seemed busy enjoying his sake with an old pal. They had a lot to catch up on.
No Sake No Life. Picture courtesy - theeconomicsocio
Otagi Nenbutsuji isn't just a fun and absorbing place to wander, it has a really interesting story too. The original temple was founded back in the 8th century but was the unlucky victim of floods and fires so moved to a safer location in 1922.
Unfortunately, disaster hit again in 1950 when it was severely damaged by a typhoon. It took thirty years to repair the damage but when it was finally restored worshippers celebrated by donating the 1200 rakan sculptures. A famous Japanese sculptor even taught many amateurs how to carve from stone. They all had a different response to the challenge.
Each has its individual charm (and I believe each was carved by a different person), so there are always more fun things to notice each time you visit or even each time you look at their photos.
The temple in the background while the statue holds a walkman. How cool is that! Pic courtesy-theeconomicsocio
Now about Adashino-Nembutsu-ji
This brother seemed more pious and devout. His house has multiple shrines where you can pay homage to Buddha. Right in the middle of the courtyard however, Adashino has a statue for every person who has died without kin to remember them. Meeting him was a heart-warming experience and the aura around his place was peaceful.
The temple courtyard which holds the statues for the departed souls. Picture courtesy-theeconomicsocio
This temple sits in an area where since the Heian period people abandoned the bodies of the dead, leaving them exposed to the elements. Receiving no tombstone or proper burial, their souls were honoured by stone Buddhas statuettes.
You'll find 8000 Buddhist statues here placed in the memory of those who died without kin.
The stones are lit by candles in a dramatic ceremony called sento kuyo
on the evenings of the 23rd and 24th of August, when sutras are chanted to appease the souls of the deceased.
Indian stupa depicting varied cultures.Picture courtesy-theeconomicsocio
Adashino-Nembutsu-ji and Otagi Nenbutsu-ji are hidden gems in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Compared to the other traditional Japanese shrines these are such curious and unique temples. The sculptures have such significant meaning and special that make them an outright "must-do". These temples are at a distance from the tourist areas and well-kept secrets. They are so much quieter in terms of crowds.
Enroute via the charming lanes. A step back in time. Picture courtesy-theeconomicsocio
It is the walk to these temples that took me back in Japanese time. The cobbled streets are lined with traditional houses with thick wooden roofs and opaque paper for window panes. The walk simply takes you to the medieval Meiji period and is so enjoyable. The streets do have a few restaurants and souvenir shops but they add to the charm.
HOW TO GET THERE
: Take the local train from Kyoto station to Sago-Arashiyama, it only takes 10-15 minutes depending on whether you get the rapid or not and will cost Y240 each way.