Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gakuen-Ji

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My favorite temple, Gakuenji, like most larger temples is guarded by a pair of Nio statues.

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Once the largest temple in the province of Izumo, and during medieval times a massive complex of building scattered over the area, Gakuenji is now very much off the beaten track and rarely visited outside of the maple-viewing season at the end of November.

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Most of the buildings have long since disappeared, though a huge thatch-roofed nunnery was only demolished a couple of years ago. Not sure what this building is, but it is well on the way to becoming a haikyo.

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The treasure house, a modern concrete structure, is well secured, though it is a case of "after the horse has bolted". The temple is so remote and rarely visited that a couple of years ago persons unknown drove in with a van, jimmied open the treasure house door and drove off with a priceless statue.

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Gakuenji is one of the temples on the Chugoku 33 temple kannon pilgrimage as well as the Izumo 33 temple Kannon pilgrimage. It is also located on the Chugoku Nature Trail.

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The name Gakuenji means "crocodile pool" and refers to the pool at the base of the waterfall behind which is built a small temple. Legend has it that Benkei stayed at Gakuenji for a long time and performed ablutions under the falls.

Legend says that the founder of Gakuenji, the priest Chishun Shonin, accidentally dropped something into the pool and a crocodile popped up and returned it to him.

4 comments:

  1. Hi!

    I am a fan of Unfamiliar Japan, during my short stay there I tried to go to those places tourists will not go to. I hope I return to Japan some day and visit some of the places you talk about ir your blog. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Great post - especially loved the photo of the building behind the pond. Nice work.

    It's surely one of the problems with many of the "treasures" that are hidden away so well that people rarely see... it's interesting to wonder to what extent their value is determined by how little people know about them? At least from a collectors viewpoint - but then again, I can't imagine a devout follower stealing Shinto treasures.

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  3. Actually in thinking about this more - I wonder exactly how crocodiles feature so much in Japanese legends given that there are no (to my knowledge) any indigenous crocodiles in Japan? Were these myths actually new things, or were they based on imported legends? I know much of the Japanese lore can be derived from Korean and Chinese sources... is this something similar?

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  4. I give one answer to your question about crocodiles in my next post on Gakuenji.....

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