Jan 5, 2020 – We were still a good distance away when I could see just a glimpse of a massive “Buddha” head among the clouds. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it as the car drove the windy road up the mountain in Eastern Kyoto. When we arrived it had just started to sprinkle, our guide offered umbrellas, yet we were all already off exploring, among the amazing view of the city, beautiful garden, and ornate structures.
I was drawn straight to a giant bronze bell suspended in a wooden tower. There was a beam hung perfectly in place, ready to be drawn back and swung to strike the bell. I find bells so interesting with their intricate carvings and the charm of their simplistic function. I wonder if monks would still come upon hearing its chime.
Then we turn to see Ryozen Kannon in the distance. After passing through the walls we are given a lit incense stick for an offering. Though the rain had stopped, the looming clouds, incense smoke, and the still pond sitting in front of us felt very overwhelming and spiritual. This is our first time giving an offering as a group. It felt somewhat awkward getting all of the incense into the burner at the foot of the statue, no doubt we look like tourists.
Now it was time to really behold the 82 foot tall Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, made of steel and concrete. She was unveiled shortly after World War II to commemorate and honor BOTH Japanese and Foreign fallen soldiers, this site has a shrine underneath the statue, a mausoleum and memorial hall.
I know now that a Bodhisattva is not a Buddha, yet someone who is on the path to Buddhahood. Avalokitesvara was given the title “Goddess of Mercy” or Guan Yin for her infinite compassion. I’ve been to shrines and temples before, including the largest Kannon in Taiwan, but none had made me feel such compassion, respect, and safety as with this Kannon watching over us and all enshrined here. It was more than I expected to feel and yet little did I know it was only a slight perspective of what I would take home from my first trip to Japan.