Saturday, September 10, 2011

[OSAKA] Shitennoji

Shitennoji is the first and oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. That is if I’ve read the flyer right. You know how I always tend to mix up some trivia and come up with factoids instead. Please do not quote me on this, hahaha. Of all the days I spent in Kansai, there wasn’t one in which I started my tour in the morning. Most started after lunch, which sucks because had I only been an early bird I could have squeezed in Kobe and even Nagoya in my itinerary of less than a week. What’s done is done. Let’s just move on.

I don’t know what is it with Buddhist temples that they just tend to draw me into them. Just like beaches, they give me a sense of peace, although unlike beaches these temples actually offer tranquility in a literal sense, without the unwanted disturbance that you might encounter on the sands of a beach. When I entered the area where the five-level pagoda was, I just sat under it and stared at the tourists going in and out of the place. The religious structures inside follow a north to south pattern, and what surrounds them is a sea of pebbles that seem to have been neatly arranged by the universe itself. I sat there for almost an hour, I think. Or more? It doesn’t matter. I loved it, and I would gladly do it again if I had the time.

The interiors of the pagoda and some pavilions are off-limits for cameras. While you might be able to snap a few photos in secret, I suggest you don’t. It is a place of worship after all and I think we, non-Buddhists, are already lucky to be given the chance to see the awe-inspiring structures and giant statues up-close. I am just sad that I haven’t read about Buddhism in depth yet as I wanted to do so for a long time now. Traveling non-stop could be very tiring too. Sometimes you just want to take a rest, and I was able to do that somehow at Shitennoji.

As much as I wanted to stay, I had to go to visit the other sites of Tennoji such as its park which contains a zoo, a museum, a greenhouse, a movie house, and a lot of plants. Unlike other parks, you have to pay to enter this one, and you ask “WHY?!” I asked that too and I was prepared to go back to Shitennoji when I heard loud music. I am not saying that live bands play there every day. In fact, what I saw was like some sort of TV taping. There were even some cosplayers in the venue. I don’t think it’s a normal thing but my curiosity got the best of me, and it was okay.

There are many spots inside for resting. Most people just take a stroll. The zoo occupies the other side. It might seem like it is part of the park but it actually has its own barriers and you have to pay another fee to get in. Is the fee worth it? I guess so, if you are a tourist. However, I am sad for the locals. It is a nice park where one can just laze around at times of great stress, but the entrance fee might make it inaccessible to some, although I think most people in this city are rich anyway so why would they mind, haha. And there are other parks to choose from.

As for the museum I don’t know what you'll see in there. My directive to myself for this Japan trip has been clear: Stay away from bookstores and museums. Bookstores, because they usually inflate my expenses, like, so much, I swear. Museums, because they eat up a lot of my time. Of course there's another entrance fee for that. This is Osaka and nothing is free nowadays. My day ended in Denden Town and Sinsekai. Let’s reserve that for the next article.

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