Monday, November 23, 2009
There is an extremely famous, and equally stunning, temple in Kyoto called 清水寺. (Kiyomizudera–Kiyomizu is the temple's name and dera is temple in Japanese. They are put together as if you were saying Kiyomizu Temple in English).
For some reason, my little town Ogi has not one, but two such named temples. I still do not know why. When I first learned I would be living here, I researched the area as much as I could. One of the high points I found was Kiyomizu. I was so excited to see its beautiful waterfall and whatever else might be within. About three weeks after arriving, I found a sign that said "清水." Excited, I rode my bike there, walked around, spent two hours exploring and taking photos. While I found a beautiful temple right in my town, about half a mile from my grocery store, there was no waterfall. I was rather disappointed.
After discussing with co-workers, I discovered that Ogi indeed had two. I had been to the other. Imagine the absurdity of going to "the other temple named Kiyomizu..." I had to laugh. While still determined to find my intended Kiyomizu, I hadn't the foggiest on how to get there. I consulted my friend the internet. It told me that it was difficult to get there without a car (I do not have one) and that there is no bus service or train there. My friendship with the internet was at once on the rocks.
About two weeks later, I accidentally discovered it. Riding my bike around town, I saw a sign that indicated "Kiyomizu Waterfall." "Hmmm..." I thought. There was only an arrow pointing straight out, with the not so daunting "3km" next to it. "I can do 3 kilometers." I reasoned. I asked a woman standing on the street for directions beyond ↑. She told me "No, that's really all there is to it, just go straight, but, I don't think you can do it..." I do a lot of biking, though, so, such a distance seemed small; I just thanked her and rode on.
I didn't realize why she thought I wouldn't be able to ride there until I was peddling up the mountain. I hadn't quite realized it would be all the way up a mountain. I did manage to climb to the top on my single-speed bike, however, when I tell locals, they are usually flabbergasted–and sometimes my students think I rode my bike all the way to Kyoto... I had quite a sense of accomplishment. Kiyomizu is my favorite place I've found in Saga Prefecture thus far. Beyond that, while riding up the mountain may have been a bit of a challenge, riding down it... Well... That was the best ten minutes in recent memory! That's right, 3km in ten minutes! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Tonight was the last of Ogi's festival in Kiyomizu. For the last week, they have illuminated the temple at night. Having bus service for the occasion was a bonus! I was thrilled to return. The fall colors lit up with the backdrop of Kiyomizu Falls was spectacular. My town is tiny and quiet, but has this gem hidden deep within.