Kenneth C. Leibman
By bus from Nara to the southwest, to the town of Hôryûji, which contains the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, founded in 607. Through the imposing Nan-daimon (southern Great Gate), past the five-storeyed pagoda to the Kondô (Main Hall) where, on the central altar, are the triad of the Buddha with two attendant Bodhisattvas, and, of course, the inevitable guardians in the corners.
four fierce warriors
guard the serenity
of the Buddha
In the Treasure Hall, the Yumechigai (Dream-changing) Kannon. It strikes me that although modern Kuan-yin and Kannon representations are unmistakeably female, and often known in the West as "the Goddess of Mercy," the early Chinese Guan-yin and early Japanese Kannon images are at most androgynous in aspect.
Then, walking to the Hôrinji Temple. I am delighted to find myself in the countryside; the road leads past cultivated fields, and by old, well-kept country houses with sturdy traditional tile roofs, and often with magn-ificent stone lanterns in the front gardens. Partly due to inadequacies in the walking map, which ignores some jags along major through highways, the promised 10 minutes extends to about 45. At one point, my halting"Gomen nasai, Hôrinji wa doko desuka" brings from a young lady arranging flowerpots at her gate detailed directions in excellent English. At last, the first sign of the temple.
over the crest of the road
the top two storeys
of the pagoda
Among the treasures in the Kondô, a 7th-century Yakushi-nyorai (Healing Buddha) smiles radiantly; a 10th-century Jûichimen (eleven-faced) Kannon Bosatsu sees everywhere.
Another country walk, this time on a straighter road, leads me to the third of the Hôryûji triad: Hokkiji Temple. Because all the buildings are closed, the old lady at the gate refuses my money, but lets me wander about.
Finally, to Hokkijimae bus stop and a long wait for the bus to Nara, during which I learn a new fact:
melon cream soda
isn't bad at all!