Kyoto and Nara - The Ancient Capitols
Japan’s native religion is called Shinto, and has striking
resemblances to Native American religions. The Great Spirit lives
in all things and therefore everything is an expression of the
divine. There are literally thousands of deities and they each
have their own specialty. These deities are worshiped in shrines
where people go to ask for special blessings. The shrines have s
special color and look and can be tiny or huge. (See the following example.)
In the mid 500’s (AD) Buddhism arrived from China, along with
the Chinese system of writing. The Japanese gods were not
jealous, and so for 1500 years the two religions have lived in
harmony with each other. But Buddha is worshiped in a temple
rather than a shrine and a temple will have a different style.
To the left is a temple in Nara that was built to house what
was, at one time, the world’s largest statue of the Buddha. He’s
been sitting there serenely since 728 AD. We’ll make a visit to
pay our respects.
But temples can have many styles. Emperors often left their favorite
properties (many summer villas) as bequests to Buddhist monks. The
new Emperor would build a new pleasure residence and then, when he
died, leave it to the monks. In this way Kyoto has become blessed (or
burdened) with literally thousands of temples. We’ll visit a few of them.
Below is the Golden Pavilion, built in 1397. Well visit this one. (And yes,
it’s covered in real gold)