Read an excerpt for temple No. 2, Kimii-dera:
We had myriad expectations for our two-day trip
to Kimii Temple and the coastal city Wakayama. The narrative enticed
us with insights into the sunken kingdom of Ki, wondrous
natural springs and sly merchants. Guidebooks raved about the area as
a Grade A vacation paradise. One even promised the Japanese
Woodstock. What’s more? There was a samurai castle, a marina city, and
a prominent noodle soup with a talk show career. All that and yet at
the heart of the matter was something colorless, namely water.
Right from the start, the rain set the tone. We stepped out at a
small train station as planned — a few kilometers away from
everything, but right in the middle, between: the city center, the
temple and an ominous amusement park peninsula on Japan’s Inland
Sea. Our plan was to take everything in on one big loop. Anyways, what
could a little rain do?
We started out hiking in the direction of the coast, cutting
straight towards an old residential neighborhood. The traditional
wooden houses and the neighborhood temple had seen better days. Quite
a few houses were empty and looked like they had been abandoned for
some time. While there was the occasional farmer or sales person
peddling their wares on the covered streets, we never came across any
shoppers. The area was oozing with the charm of a dusty,
black-and-white film, which could still beguile an audience despite
scratches and tears. Yeah, Japan may have once come across that way,
when the construction chaos still wasn’t dominant, when the power
lines didn’t stretch like spider webs over the houses, and the world
was as it should be. The melancholy of the wind and rain deepened in
pregnant clarity as we left the old neighborhood as if in
acknowledgement of our sentiments.
Soaking wet and half-frozen, we reached the other side of the
world. It began a paltry two-kilometers away at the other end of a
pier. There lay the marina city with its glittering high-rise façades,
kitschy wedding chapels, beauty salons and wellness hotels. Then we
discovered Europe, Europe the amusement park and honeymoon destination
with Mediterranean flair, three hundred square meters decked out with
pastel-colored half-timbered houses and Venetian gondolas. Maybe it
wasn’t the high season, or the weather was too awful, because Europe
lay deserted before us as well. We only ran into life along the
obligatory arcades with souvenir shops and eateries. Spry seniors had
gathered around to marvel at a master chef, who was adeptly
dismantling a giant tuna into pieces of sushi. There were many stands
with Satsumas and mandarin products like jams, desserts and all kinds
of sweets. Wakayama prefecture is, after all, the main growing area
for this winter fruit. The history of the temple later revealed to us
the initiator of this tradition. After we had warmed ourselves up, and
our clothes were to some extent dry, we continued on to the temple by
city bus. On the bus we were alone once more.
Kimii-dera is nestled on the side of a hill. The steep staircase
which ascends immediately behind the entrance gate bears a name of its
very own: Keichen-Zaka. Zaka means slope. It’s also
found in the name of the city Osaka, which can be translated as ‘large
slope.’ Kechien, in turn, is a Buddhist catchall, which
describes all of the actions towards becoming a Buddha. Therefore,
the steps of Kimii-dera are a stairway to Nirvana.
Back in our room, we made ourselves comfortable on the rolled-out
futons and buried ourselves in the stories involving the temple. We
were soon wondering if it wasn’t the ruler of the sea who had drummed
up the wind and rain, because he was craving company. If anything, it
was his mount, a water dragon, who was springing out of the water to
try and root out the monk IKKŌ
SHŌNIN. 1300 years ago, that monk
supposedly followed the dragon to the ocean floor in order to instruct
the lonely underworld dweller in Buddhist wisdom. The monk returned to
the surface after some time richly rewarded. The gifts – a temple
bell, a priest’s staff and other valuable ceremonial objects – found
their places in the treasury of Kimii-dera, it is said. Among the
gifts were seven cherry tree seedlings, which, according to legend,
the monk planted near the temple. To date, their numbers have grown to
about seven hundred. The cherry trees of Kimii-dera are among the
first to begin blooming in the Kansai region. Their
magnificence must surely attract hoards of visitors to Wakayama then.
Excerpt from the Chapter: Poetry, Trivia and Travel Directions
Kanji: 紀三井寺 - Kimii-dera: Temple of the Three Springs in the land of Ki.
It is a long way
Yet, here in Temple Kimii
it seems that
the capital of flowers
is not so far away.
The temple's story is connected with the ancient realm of the
land of Ki, with miraculous springs and clever business men. Not far
from the temple grounds, there is a Samurai castle worth visiting. The
best season to come is when the many cherry trees are in full bloom.
The temple is located in the south of the city of Wakayama. The
和 歌 山 県 和 歌 山 市 紀 三 井 寺1,201. The temple belongs to
a local sect. Kimii-dera's main image of worship is an eleven headed
Kannon (Jūichimen-Kannon). The temple is open throughout the year
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is 300 yen.
January, 1-3: Hatsumōde. First temple visit of New
Year to pray for one's family, traffic safety and the like.
February, 3 or 4: Setsubun. Celebration of last day of
winter. Evil spirits are driven out by throwing soy beans. Try to
catch a package and grip your fortune. March, 20 to April,
20: Cherry blossom festival. July, 7: Tanabata.
Star Festival and Gion Festival with singing and fortune
lottery. From noon to 6 p.m. August, 15: O-Bon
Festival. Memorial service for the dead. Lanterns will be hang and
a ceremonial bonfire takes place. From noon to 6 p.m. November,
9th day of 9th months in the lunar calendar: Kiku no sekku.
Day of Chrysanthemum. Flowers are offered to protect against bad
health or for the rescue from pain.
Take JR Hanwa Rapid
to Wakayama. It
takes about 61 minutes. Change to local trains
of JR Kinokuni
Line. After 7 minutes the train
Kimiidera. From here, it takes 9 minutes to walk to the temple
grounds. Follow directions displayed at the station.