Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 20, Tuesday May 20, 2008
















I Have always wanted to visit Japan. The opportunity finally came to me in January this year, thanks to the organization AOTS. I had been selected for a training course Quality Management of Bangladesh & Nepal (BNQM) from January 29 to February 12 at Kansai Kenshui Centre, situated in Osaka, Japan. We arrived at Osaka on January 28 at 6 am. It was very cold about -5 to -6, and we were shivering in the freezing weather, but I was warmed up by my excitement at being in Japan.

Saturdays are part of the weekly holiday in Japan. On February 2, which was a Saturday, we made a program to visit Kyoto. Kyoto is often called “Japan's Heartland” and it is said that it is impossible to know the real Japan without knowing Kyoto. It is also far away from Osaka. The modern railway system in Japan is so efficient, that any distance is now within reach.

We started at the Abiko subway station near our Kansai Kenshui Centre, which took us to the Shin Osaka station via the Midosuji Line in only 35 minutes. Shin-Osaka is a big station; we bought Kyoto tickets and transferred to the JR line. At 850 yen per person, it took us only 30 minutes to reach Kyoto. The Kyoto station is very big. Tourist information booth and bus service centre are available beside the station. There were five of us, and the rule stated that there be four people to a taxi, so we opted for a whole day bus ticket for 500 yen.

Natural scenery, temples, shrines, towers and homes intermingle with a poignant historical beauty here. Whether it is the Gion Festival, the tea ceremony or Japanese flower arrangement or Nishijin brocade, so, many aspects that characterize Japanese culture continue to thrive in Kyoto. Over a period of 1200 years, dating from the decision to move the capital to Kyoto in 794, a splendid, delicate and unique kind of culture was nurtured and over the course of history came to be considered the mother of culture within Japan.

Kyoto had a long history of wars and truces. The vivid crimson of the Heian Shrine, built overshadowing the Heian Palace, allows one to imagine what the freshness of that old city must have been like in the days of its youth. With the passing of many eras came numerous shifts in power, the history of the capital, spanning over 1000 years and ending when the last Tokugawa Shogun returned sovereignty to the emperor from within the walls of Nijo Castle, represents the very course of Japanese history from ancient times to its arrival at the modern state.

There are seventeen famous temples, the Imperial Palace, Japanese gardens, handicraft centres, antique-pieces and pottery shops, which altogether create a city rich in tourist attractions. First we went to Kiyomizu temple. The approach to Kiyomizu temple is an attractive winding road lined with colourful souvenir and curio shops. The shop owners are very gracious, their shops stacked with traditional Japanese porcelain vases, pottery, plate and bowls. Some bear motifs of the Kiyomizu temple. UNESCO listed this temple as world heritage property.

The vibrant orange coloured temple hall is rich from an architectural viewpoint. Long heavy logs form the pillars and a curved tile roof has provided protection for the temple from a long time. One of the oldest and largest golden Buddha statues grace the temple. The gorgeous doors, windows, arch and stair had us spellbound.

The culture of Japan originated and developed primarily under the influence of Buddhism, and the preservation of that cultural inheritance falls largely to temples. The temple is surrounded by rich forests. From Kiyomizu temple to Maruyama Park there are curio shops, pottery workshops and an array of small and large temples and shrines. Crossing Maruyama Park, we kept walking northwards to the Heian Shrine, whose garden is admired for its cherry and iris flowers in season. At last we reached at the Golden Pavilion.

The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku, is a three-story building on the grounds of the temple. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf. The pavilion functions as a shariden, housing relics of the Buddha. On the roof is a golden hô-ô, or so-called "Chinese phoenix". The building is often linked or contrasted with Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion Temple, which is also located in Kyoto.

Kinkaku (Kinkaku-jiGolden Pavilion) is a popular name for one of the main buildings of this temple, which is properly called Rokuon-ji Temple. In the 1220's it was the comfortable villa of Kintsune Saionji. Yoshimitsu, the third Shogun of Ashikaga, abdicated the throne in 1394. After three years, he began to build Kitayamaden and made a special effort to make it a breathtaking site. He indulged in his peaceful life in these serene settings. After Yoshimitsu's death, Kitayamaden was made into a Zen temple in accordance with his will. All the buildings of those days have since come to ruin except Kinkaku. The garden, however, remains as it was in former days and can be enjoyed as it was hundreds of years ago. Rokuon-ji Temple was ascribed as World Cultural Heritage in 1994.

The beautiful golden temple surrounding the garden gave us a peaceful ambience. We felt very lucky to see this serene and attractive place. There is a souvenir shop where we bought some Japanese traditional pottery for memory's sake, but I felt I will never forget this gorgeous golden pavilion and how Japanese people preserve their heritage.

Kyoto is a city which maintains a revolutionary spirit, a city of ideas and the cultural capital of Japan, constantly creating new traditions. In a partnership of trust with the people, efforts are made to create a "relaxing lifestyle in a vibrant city", as a positive response towards the new era, while simultaneously protecting and developing traditional culture. Kyoto is a true jewel- Japan's asset and a world treasure.

Nazneen Haque mimi
Interior Consultant
E-mail: journeym@citechco.net
Photo Credit: Journeyman Archive



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