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Showing posts from November, 2014

Baisouin, the temple of glass and bamboo

It's an old temple. It was established in 1643. This is what it looks like:

Seriously. Or, in South African English, seriaas!
Baisōin originated 371 years ago, but it was reconstructed in 2003, based on a design by Kengo Kuma*, the same architect who designed the ultra-modern Akagi Jinja in Kagurazaka.
I read about his temple when I researched his shrine, and finally got a chance to visit it last Sunday. I promise – word of honour as fact-obsessed information junkie – that I did consult my books and Google this temple, but don't fix what ain't broke and don't reinvent the wheel. Unless, of course, you replace wheels with this.
I digress.

Point is, the best information about this temple is in its brochure: concise and written in faultless English. I'm therefore going to commit shameless plagiarism, with full credit to Baisōin in Minami-Aoyama. The temple's name can also be transcribed as Baisouin, and you can find more information here, here and here.
Its full n…

Todai ginkgo report, 27 November

I share, with no further comment, the glory of Tōdai's ginkgos as photographed this morning.

The ginkgos of Aoyama

Aoyama is not my natural habitat. It's trèschichi, in other words, very fancy, but to say "very fancy" isn't fancy enough. Rather go for faux French.
Despite my discomfort in such refined surroundings, I was lured there by the twin temptations of gold and gods. You could even add sex, since I found myself walking through a fairly shady area in Shibuya later that same day, but that was happenstance rather than forethought. Money, religion and fornication. That covers all the bases, doesn't it?
The gods were at a temple and two shrines – more about that later – and the gold? Ah. That was to be found at what is allegedly Tokyo's most famous spot for ginkgos, Ichō Namiki, the ginkgo-lined avenue that runs from Aoyama 1-chōme to Meiji Jingu Gaien. I avoid it precisely because it's famous, jam-packed and in my arrogant opinion not the best spot at all, but since I was in that area anyway, well, why not?

I went on Sunday, when it was fairly early in the season a…