Continuing from before…
For Kyomizudera see Autumn In Kyoto Part I
For Kinkakuji see Autumn In Kyoto Part II
For Ginkakuji see Autumn In Kyoto Part III
The night opened into another cloudy day. Weather was expected to clear out in the second half after a light drizzle. Today it is a journey to the south, south of Kyoto. We will take JR Nara line from Kyoto station. A small toy train like 2 compartment train stood at the designated platform. Destination Tofukuji. People from around Japan come to Toukuji for its autumn colors.
The path out of the station was narrow and perhaps would have benefited from more direction in English. Google maps saved. There is a way that runs parallel to the railway track and another one takes left. Seeing a temple on the left, we ignored the GPS directions and walked towards it. It turned out to be a family temple of some vintage. Thankfully local volunteers posted directions at points along the way to Tofukuji. It helped us navigate our way back.
But this short detour uncovered a part of Kyoto that would have remained unseen otherwise. The two sides of the way leading to Tofukuji are residences of priests each calling a temple home. The temples on the two sides were gorgeous at one time no doubt but perhaps fell in disuse over time. The tradition of dispensing traditional food from the temples continues still, though in a more commercial way. Food kiosks are set up on the gates run by family members of respective house holds.
Soon the high boundary walls of Tofukuji, partially draped in bamboo groves, came into view. The way inside the familiar Torii gate was covered in gravels, it was wide and had a boulevard kind of appearance. Trees neatly trimmed, sign posts welcome visitors. The path came to a wide crossing, flanked on two sides by priests quarters and ticket gate.
The way from the ticket gate headed left. We entered into a covered wooden veranda. The walkway led to a garden path down stone-steps. Further ahead it becomes a bridge over a small stream. The entire garden, the valley, the stream and the way up the passage, everywhere it was a riot of colors. If there was a God of Autumn, she might have left the most precious gems from her collection in here. Somewhat strikingly, this was a zen temple meditating in steadfast austerity, in the middle of unabashed beauty around.
The covered passage went up in steps, turned, turned again, and reached up to the top. The main hall of prayer stood there. Heavy wooden doors of a courtyard opened in. Inside, a stone paved road went straight on to the base of the shrine. On one side lay a lily pond. with gold fish swimming around. The other side there was this rock garden covered in sand, marked in linear zen patterns. At one end there was a wooden sitting area, thoughtfully positioned to let the visitors spend some time in silent introspection. Chance for us to take in the sights and sounds in, at our own pace. Tourists from around the world came in, sat quietly.
Getting back up, we stepped into the garden. Maple and Japanese pines lined the paths. Green moss was covered with scattered red and yellow maple leaves. A set of stone obelisks stood under a maple, witness to the times. The maple covered walk descended in steps down towards the stream. A little stone bridge crossed the ravine, and went up the mossy garden route back to the wooden walkway. As we crossed the bridge, and went few steps up the stone paved route, the complete wooden bridge and the veranda came into view. Not quite complete, to be honest, as part of it was bedecked in maple colors. The sky partially cleared, with streaks of blue being visible. Sun shone through the leaves. It was a panorama fit for artists easel. It was nature’s own painting, may be by Benzaiten the God of art herself!
The way back was a dramatic change, sudden descent from the heavenly to the mundane. The underside of the overhead train-line cast its shadow beneath. The road was narrow. Dwellings showed the marks of time, and perhaps of downward fortunes. Ironically, one thought, it’s perhaps how things in life are meant to be like. Without the contrast being there, the beauty left behind would not have appeared so precious, so surreal.
We reached the small station. Next stop was immediately the next station on the same line – Fushimi Inari.