Category Archives: Kyoto

Walking with the Dead Along Matsubara-dori

Source: deep kyoto

Here is the latest installment from Edward J. Taylor‘s ongoing exploration of Kyoto’s streets.

Entrance to Inaba Yakushu-ji

The Okuribi fires have cooled, the ancestors have departed, the aubergine and the cucumbers have been eaten. August is the month of ghosts, and Kyoto in particular feels thick with them, due both to the city’s long and oft-violent history and its heavy, muggy summer air. It seems quite fitting that the anniversary of the end of the Second World War falls during the month, creating an arc that seems to begin with that of the Hiroshima bombing on the 6th, and lasting until Kyoto’s more upbeat Jizo-bon celebrations for children on the 23rd. The presence of dragonflies is perhaps the most obvious manifestation, as if the dead are swirling all around us.

It seems fitting then that the taxi driver is trying to kill me, swerving erratically and jostling me about. An apparent crib sheet has been affixed to his dashboard, written with little hints such as checking the left wing mirror before making turns. At least the heat was no longer trying to kill me, as the nation’s fatality rate this summer had been particularly high. The early morning air actually felt a bit cool.

Kyoto’s western face isn’t her most attractive. More than that, there’s a certain downtrodden look. Some of the characters I see seem to reflect this. There’s a certain desperation out here, although that could simply be that everybody has this sort of look during a hot summer. One guy lopes in a deliberate straight line right toward me, insistent on not altering his path. As I step aside to let him continue his antlike forward motion, he comes to a complete halt and stares at me as I stride by. Beyond him, a woman …continue reading


The Mystery of Kyoto’s Big Buddha

Like any city with an ancient past, Kyoto is built on its own ruins. Layers of history remain hidden under the modern streets and houses, with many of the most famous structures lost in fires and earthquakes. Locals have their own ideas about what long-lost piece of the city’s architectural history they would wish to be magically restored. Some might pine over the loss of the Jurakudai palace, glittering with elaborate golden decorations and numerous halls of untold opulence. Others may long for a restoration of Honnoji, the temple where (in)famous warlord Nobunaga met his fiery and mysterious death.

However, nothing looms as large over the city’s lost history as the Daibutsu, a massive Buddhist statue that was once the crowning artistic and religious centerpiece of Kyoto. The fact that this grand piece of culture has been lost to time without a trace left behind (almost) is both astonishing and tragic. The story of its construction, destruction, and legacy is just as fascinating today as the statue itself must have been to the first visitors in the 1600s.

The Kyoto Daibutsu …continue reading