All too often when going about our busy lives the real gems of the place in which we do our living are overlooked. Sometimes they are embarrassingly obvious, other times not. For me Kennin-ji falls into the former category.
Kyoto can be a little random like that. Or perhaps it is my own randomness I’ve not quite come to terms with.
I’ve walked through the grounds of Kennin-ji several times on route up or down town, hurried around it far too many times to count and even spent a few weeks in a Machiya that backed onto it – so close I could smell the incense – yet I’d never been inside the sprawling and spectacular temple – the oldest Zen Buddhist Temple in Kyoto.
Although in recent times it is most famous for a single ceiling covered by this Double Dragon painting by artist Koizumi Junsaku -commissioned to commemorate the 800th anniversay of Kenninji’s foundation in 2002 – there really is so much more to this place of scrolls and long hallways, various garden pockets and symbolic viewing windows. And while you can’t see it – the energy is palpable.
Although, even up close, the paintings on these sliding screens look like the real deal – these are reproductions of the original and now very precious Edo Period paintings which can be seen in the Kyoto National Museum.
And this is the Double Dragon roof mentioned above – 2 years in the making and using only the finest black ink on high quality Japanese paper – you just can’t get a true black without some serious ink. It was painted on the floor of a gymnasium in Hokkaido (most northern of Japan’s main islands) and then transported to Kyoto. Although you can’t tell my looking up at it – the painting is the size of 108 Tatami mats. It really is pretty astounding. The two dragons are a symbol of eternal life
If you are in Gion – make sure you visit! One of the gates is situated at the southern end of Hanamakoji Street – just a short stroll from Shijo street. So there is really no excuse. Unless you are me of course. However, I shouldn’t feel so bad – I dragged along my friend Mayumi, a long time Kyoto native, and she’d never been either! Phew! I guess it could have something to do with those ‘coupla thou’ temples in town…. There really is so much to see in Kyoto town. But this is supposed to be one of the ‘Big 5’. See what you think.