Friday, June 10, 2011

Kamo Walking Tour / 加茂町のウォーキングツアー

   The rainy season has started in Japan, and honestly, I am just not a big fan. The sun rarely pops out, you can never dry your clothes since it’s always wet, and riding a bike in the rain is about as easy as walking through molasses.

   However, the upside is that all the water works magic for all the plants and trees, so on the off chance it’s not rainy and cloudy the scenery is staggeringly beautiful. And thanks to clear skies that’s just what we got to enjoy this past Saturday on Seika Global Network’s yearly walking tour.


   Put on by the Seika Global Network, the tour aims to help students of an English guide class practice their English speaking skills and learn how to lead tour groups around. The tour ran through a small town to the east of Seika called Kamo, and 24 people came along for the adventure, including 8 foreigners.


   The first stop was the Gansen temple, a temple that despite being rebuilt in 1987, has hundreds of years of history. There was apparently a large complex to start with, but over the years the rest were burnt down in civil wars, leaving only the main hall and a pagoda. The pagoda is a real treat though, peeking out of the green forest, and the splash of bright orange among the green backdrop was really beautiful.


   Our tour then carried us onwards, through forests and back roads to see the sekibutsu, the real draw of the tour. Sekibutsu, (literally “Stone Buddha,”) are carvings or statues of different Buddhas, meant to protect people or sometimes grant request. The most famous of these are the Jizo statues, guardians of children who died before their parents, and you can see them spread across Japan, easily recognizable by their red scarves and bibs. But beyond the Jizo, there are many different kinds of sekibutsu, and the path through Kamo is famous for these images, including different statues like the “Slit-neck” Buddha and the laughing Buddha that we saw on the tour.


   The sekibutsu seemed to be hidden away in all manner of places, and it was a lot of fun winding through the woods to suddenly come upon a huge collection of statues or a fearsome Buddha carved in the rocks. My personal favorite was a giant carving of Amida Buddha, several meters high and staring out from across a valley at us. I was totally sure we could walk up and get a closer look, but as the grass was apparently full of snakes, good sense won out.

  そして、石仏は隠れていたようでした。 私達はよく角を曲がると、急に大きい石仏と直面しました。一番気になった石仏は谷の反対側から見詰めている大門仏谷の阿弥陀石仏、何メートルもの高さがありました。ちょっと遠かったから、近づいていいかなとおもいましたが、ガイドの方から草むらに蛇がたくさん隠れていたと注意があったので、良識に従いました。

   We also got to stop at Joruri Temple where a collection of nine Buddhist statues, made nearly a thousand years ago, are on display. Even now, there’s always something striking about seeing things that old. It’s always cool to see stuff that is about 4 times older than the United States, and were carved at a time when Robin Hood was supposedly prancing about Sherwood forest.


   Of course the temples and Buddhas were very pretty and had a certain charm, I just as impressed by the nature surrounding us. Like I said, all the rain made the scenery greener than a hundred dollar bill, and as the wind blew through the trees, it looked like green waves were rippling across the mountains. Now that I’ve lived in Seika for a while, I tend to forget how beautiful the landscape of Kyoto can be, and this walk was a good reminder.


   And there were also cats, which always makes things like, 10 times better.