Posts Tagged ‘ Toji Temple ’

A Quick Break from Bad Blood Between China & Japan.

I preface this by saying that before anyone gives me a hard time for  “not understanding the complexities and historical dimensions” of the China-Japan feud (attempted invasions, actual invasions, shocking atrocities, arrogance, real or feigned rage over historical events), please, I do get that.  I just want to do my infinitesimal part in creating more positive vibes . . .

Kobo Daishi, a/k/a Kukai

First, let’s go back 1200 years . . .

Since Esoteric Buddhism was relatively unknown in Japan, Kobo Daishi knew he must go to China in order to gain a better understanding of the Esoteric teachings.  Fortunately, Kobo Daishi was able to join a Japanese envoy in 804 that was traveling by boat to Xi’an (the capital of China at the time) to visit the Tang Dynasty. After spending some time in China, Kobo Daishi was given the opportunity to learn the essence of the esoteric teachings under a priest Huiguo, an authority on Esoteric Buddhism. Master Huiguo then initiated him into the Esoteric Buddhism tradition. It was truly remarkable that Kobo Daishi was able to master the complex esoteric teachings and be selected to be the eighth patriarch of Esoteric Buddhism in such a short period of time.

In spite of Kobo Daishi’s initial 20 year directive to study Buddhism in China, he returned to Japan after only two years with the mission from Master Huiguo to spread the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism throughout Japan.

Kobo Daishi returned to Japan in the province of Tsukushi (Fukuoka Prefecture), with a great number of religious textbooks and artworks. However, having disobeyed the 20 year directive from the government, he was not allowed to enter the capital city. After several years had passed, Kobo Daishi was finally permitted to enter the capital city. Immediately after being welcomed back into the capital city he proclaimed his devotion to propagating of the supreme doctrine of Esoteric Buddhism.

Kobo Daishi is also known as the father of Japanese culture. He is renown for his talents as a teacher, engineer, inventor, poet, calligrapher and creating the first public school in Japan. . . .

Read more here on the history and influence of China in Japan through Kobo Daishi

Bad relations between China and Japan suck.  I mean, they really rot (the bad relations, not the countries).  Makes me, and American, cringe.  I like both countries.  A lot.  But they’re both freaking out over each other now.  Here’s a recent piece on the latest Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands kerfuffle.  And today I just read where China’s refused to grant visas to three Japanese members of the Taiwanese National Symphony Orchestra on the eve of the Orchestra touring Mainland China.  Gad.

So, while it will do absolutely no good, I still feel compelled to offer-up this, an American tribute to both China and Japan, to Japan and China.  It may be silly, it may be naive, it may be superficial, but it’s still a really hep song, and it demonstrates that in other parts of the world lots of people think both countries are really cool and celebrate them both.

Bodhisattva – Steely Dan (1973)

Would you take me by the hand
Would you take me by the hand
Can you show me
The shine of your Japan
The sparkle of your china
Can you show me
Bodhisattva . . .



Prayers at the Temple of the Jade Buddha. Anshan, China. July 2008.


Over 1200 years ago Kobo Daishi — yes, the same guy who would go to China — founded To-ji Temple in Kyoto . . .

Prayers at Toji Temple. Kyoto, Japan. May 2008.

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To-ji (東寺) Temple Flea Market ・ Updated

=  First posted June 2010.   To-ji’s Flea Market is held on the 21st of every month.  =

To-ji temple covers many leafy, beautiful acres, busting with ancient halls and other buildings in South Central Kyoto.  It figures importantly into my life and Japan experience.  I first immersed myself in the To-ji Flea Market scene in the autumn of 1984 when I was 21 years old.  I went again and again over the years.  On September 21, 2001, I took my then-wife to the Flea Market and both of our lives changed dramatically as a result of that visit. . .  More, much more, on that in Part III of my book, Dancing Over Kyoto. In 2008 I took a group of U.S. college history students, Japanese History Students, to To-ji’s Flea Market.  It blew their minds.  Please read on.

Note:  Photos below from May 2008, going back to 2003 and 2002.

Approaching To-jis Southern Entrance from the west.

I first experienced To-ji as an undergrad, an exchange student, back in the 1980s, when I went a couple of different times to its 21st-of-every-month flea market.  Bursting with people, food (yakitoriokonomiyakitakoyakioden, yakisoba, taiyaki — with either custard or azuki bean filling — etc., etc.), treasures, junk, memorabilia, used kimono, knives, scrolls, incense, brass, wood, stoneware, sights and smells the like of which is unparalleled anywhere in Japan.  That’s no exaggeration: the monthly To-ji flea market is the largest in Japan.  Since those first couple of occasions I’ve been back again and again, in ’90, ’91, ’01 and many times since.  Two years ago, in May (May 21st, in fact) 2008, I took a group of UAB (University of Alabama-Birmingham) students to To-ji and, by all accounts, they had a good time.

A small fraction of the crowd on Flea Mkt day. May 21, 2008. (also called “Kobo-san”).

To-ji goes back to the year 786, when it was founded two years after Emperor Shomu moved his court from the even more ancient capital of Nara to Kyoto — then called “Heian-kyo.  Some of its images and relics date back almost as far.  Its iconic, 5-story pagoda is the tallest in Japan, some 180 feet high.  Its founder was the celebrated Tantric (Shingon) Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi.  To-ji’s flea market is thus affectionately known to and referred by locals simply as “Kobo-san.”

A former acquaintance checking the porcelain. To-ji. 2003.

And this under the food tents, To-ji in May 2002.

And this under the food tents, To-ji in May 2002.


1 of 88 Prayers. Toji Temple. May 21, 2008.


Local Ladies at “Choir Practice.” To-ji.

To-ji Market Hours: generally, dawn to dusk.  As with any flea market or variant thereof, better deals can be done in the late afternoon when the dealers are looking for cash-flow and desirous of diminishing their pack-up and loading time.  This is a general rule of thumb, but, of course, not a “hard and fast” rule. Oh, and Caveat emptor.


The Knife Man. To-ji. 2008.


     1.  From Kyoto Station exit out of the Shinkansen (“Bullet Train”) Central Entrance. This is on the South Side of Kyoto Station. If you’re on the side that exits out to Kyoto Tower, then you’re on the North Side and need to go back up the stairs (or escalator) to the 2nd Floor Pedestrian Walkway and walk back over to the opposite side, go down the steps and keep walking straight towards the (South) exit. You’ll pass the Kintetsu Railway (inside) Central Entrance on your right just before you walk out of Kyoto Station.  

     2.  After you get all the way out of Kyoto Station take a right and follow the sidewalk which runs along Hachijo-dori ・八条道り(Hachijo Street), keep going straight, leaving Kyoto Station receding behind you on your right. About two or so city blocks after Kyoto Station’s behind you, you’ll cross a major intersection, where Hachijo-dori crosses Aburanokoji-dori. Keep going straight.

     3.  About 3 blocks after crossing the big intersection (remember, you haven’t turned and you’re still on Hachijo-dori), you’ll come to another largish intersection, where Hachijo-dori meets Omiya-dori・大宮道り. Turn left onto Omiya-dori (you’re almost there).

     4.  Walk just a few blocks down Omiya-dori and you’ll see To-ji Temple on your right. You can either go into the first entrance you come to, on your right, or — as I recommend — walk to the end of the street and take a right on Kujo-dori, keeping To-ji on your right hand side as you walk down the sidewalk. Now you’re walking along To-ji’s southern (main entrance) side and you’ll be among throngs of people. After a couple hundred yards you’ll arrive at the Southern Large/Main Gate (Nandaimon) and you can enter there.

Total Time from Exiting Kyoto Station to the Main Gate: 15 minutes+/-.