Monday, March 05, 2007

high times at buddhist disneyland, or: nachi no tacos

a few weeks ago, megan and stan came down to make me a huge plate of nachos and see nachi waterfall...about 40 minutes away in the adjacent prefecture. it's the second tallest waterfall in japan. i hadn't made it to nachi yet because i didn't learn of it until winter...not a good time to stand around spraying water. i wanted to go with them, but i was hesitant because going anywhere from here usually requires driving on winding mountain roads that invariably make me carsick and ruin whatever experience i set out to have. i also had a pancake party date with the office girls later that evening, and i wanted to have time to get ready for that. but the day dawned sparkling and sunny, and i knew i'd regret not going out, so i agreed. the drive wasn't bad--we just had to drive to shingu (the road is almost dead straight) and then turn onto the windy part for a short time. we hopped out and walked up the road a bit to a giant staircase hewn out of rock...leading down to the base of the waterfall. this is an important place in the whole buddhist pilgrimage route, but i mainly ignore that stuff because it doesn't interest me. due to its importance, however, there were several fancy-pancy big temples nearby and lots of monks and monkettes selling prayer bags and other religious paraphernalia.
there was incense and fragrant wood burning...probably my favorite part about temples in japan. for about $2.50 we could hike up closer to the falls, which we did. at one point on the trail, they even had tiny ceramic dishes out of which you could drink the sacred waterfall water (for another $2.50), but i already had a bottle of volvic (voted best-tasting in a blind taste test), which cost less money and came all the way from france (that said in a wry voice). the waterfall was pretty, but i'm sure it's more magnificent when the rains have plumped it up a lot. i took a little camera video so i could capture the sound of the water...sorry it's sideways.

little did i know the entire day would be about water sounds. i was charmed by this crinkly stream on the way up to the big temples.

and lastly, a faucet dripping into a bucket, though mainly you just hear a kid jumping up the stairs behind me.

in the past, i've sorta had the attitude, "seen one temple, seen 'em all," but i was wrong. the nachi temples are accented in bright orange, and against the blue sky, stunning. it isn't uncommon to see young ladies "hiking" these rough-hewn, rocky trails in stiletto heels.

we climbed innumerable stairs, but the view was worth it.

when we got here, i reached the conclusion that sometimes japan looks just like a disney interpretation of itself. i expected to see snow white waving placidly from the wee orange bridge.

lovely chipped paint

these flower buds caught my attention and i photographed them a few times. when we came around the corner of the building, i (with my infantile kanji abilities) sounded out the first two kanji i've ever read adjacent to one another--mizuko. that is: water + child. this didn't make much sense to me until i realized i was standing in front of the temple where people go to honor their aborted babies. i could see a monk statue reaching out for a crawling baby (looked more like a monkey) and toys inside the door. it was tragic and creepy at once.

this is the main entrance to the big temple. the inside was surprisingly lavish and beautiful: fresh fruit, flowers, and strings of colorful origami cranes hung everywhere, and the glint of gold made the wooden interior shine. to the side were more jars of "backup cranes" which i really wanted to photograph, but i felt like i wasn't supposed to.

these pilgrims? shuffled across the courtyard looking mysterious and anonymous in their veils.

i got to climb inside an 800 year old camphor tree! now i know where all that fragrant wood they were burning came from. tell me this isn't like disneyland.

scariest depiction of a horse in the history of the world!

and finally a purchase i had been looking to make for some months: wooden geta of my very own.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I had a lovey time that day! I think that the blue skies made it even nicer. There were a mind-boggling amount of stairs, but they were easier this time than my first time!
    Now I know what you were doing as you crouched beside that stream!
    Thanks for taking me down "Recent Memory Lane".