Sunday, January 08, 2006

京都 2005 - 13 Tenri

[191105] to get to e start of e Yama-no-be-no-michi, a 13 km hike through e Nara countryside, e cat had to find its way to & through Tenri, a small city south of Nara.

06:54AM Kintetsu train from Kyoto to 平端 Hirahata via 大和西大寺 Yamatosaidaiji was full of high school kids with giant schoolbags. wondered why most of e school girls were carrying what looked like pencil cases in their hands....until they started flipping open their minimum half-A4 size mirrors to do their eyelash curler + eyeliner + 'fake double eyelid' sticky tape + eyeshadow + eyebrow pencil + mascara + lip liner/lipstick + blusher morning routine (moisturiser + make-up base + concealer + foundation + hair part is all done before leaving home). e cat watches people curl their eyelashes - with morbid fascination....e metal contraption they use looks like something for plucking out eyeballs whole for boiling in soup or something.

a change of train at Hirahata to end up at 天理 Tenri at ~08:00AM....


....why is this place so dead? e few souls around were either in school uniform, or black happi coats with e big fat kanji 天理教 emblazoned in white on e back, & all hurrying in e same direction along e Tenri Hondo covered shopping arcade (centre, above), where they all vanished into e blinding sunlight at e eastern end. & e arcade was totally silent & empty - elsewhere in Japan, shops would be opening for business by now, filled with e busy chatter of owners & assistants stacking out wares, arranging goods, greeting one another, sweeping, cleaning & splashing water.

at e eastern end of e arcade:

PB190870 PB190871

a big temple hall in e middle of a huge expanse of gravel [above left], where everyone in identical black 天理教 happi coats stopped to bow in front of e temple hall [above right] whenever they walked past it.

facing e main temple hall were rows & rows of neatly parked bicycles....


neatly lined up humans & neatly arranged ladles at e 'fountain' for devotees to wash their hands & rinse their mouths....


neatly arranged pairs & pairs & pairs of shoes....


everything in this place seems so fastidiously neatened, meticulously placed, & carefully aligned....not a hair out of place nor a piece of litter in sight, not even a stray cigarette butt. in fact there didn't seem to be anyone smoking here - an anomaly in Japan, where all temples & shrines are decorated with 禁煙 (smoking prohibited) signs.

curious about e great number of school shoes (there were lots & lots more neatly stacked in rows & rows of shelves, apart from those in e photo above) outside e main temple hall, e cat ventured up e steps & in for a peek - into a vast darkened hall packed with students & teachers kneeling in neat rows surrounding a central space where a few men dressed like priests seemed to be leading some sort of prayer service....around a big fat pillar....!

kneeling down at e back, e cat watched while what seemed like at least a thousand people performed some singsong chanting accompanied by repetitive hand gestures - strangely overwhelming yet soothing, & very surreal. this was so unlike any Buddhist temple, with everyone so focused on e pillar (why a pillar?), & no sign of any Buddha statue nor incense. & so e cat went outside hoping to find some answers. just as it left e hall:

e trickle....


....before e flood:


this was taken at e south entrance where e cat had entered into e section with high school students - at e same time hundreds of primary school kids were swarming out of e east section, & probably countless others from e other 2 sections. it happened so suddenly, & e human wave swept by & disappeared just as quickly, no dawdling, no hanging around waiting for friends. in a flash, all e neatly parked bicycles had vanished.

outside, e cat was invited into an office where e staff got hold of an English speaker on e phone, who explained that this was a daily affair for Tenri students - morning prayers before starting e school day - & something unique to Tenri, where ~90% of e population are followers of Tenrikyo, which has devotees worldwide (including Singapore).

everywhere you looked in Tenri, buildings with e same design & colours....


....that serve as dormitories, a hospital, schools, a university, a museum, a library, etc. e cat walked past one that was marked as 'cafeteria no. 6' (or something like that) - just how big fat is this place....!

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