August 19 - 25, 2012: Issue 72   

The Miho Museum

In the Miho museum we took this shot before we knew you couldn't shoot

 A gorgeous bridge 

Beautiful Gardens of Saiho-ji

I think I'd like to live here; The ponds are a major part of the Landscape

Above: A happy carp. Below: A miniature landscape within a large landscape is a very Japanese concept 

 Miho Museum and Saiho Ji
By Paul Wheeler

George Harrison famously reiterated that "all things must pass" and I was very sorry to see that our trip to Japan had had that very thing happen to it. Our last two sightseeing days in Kyoto comprised of a trip to the east to see The Miho Museum and a trip to the west to visit Saiho-ji a.k.a. Koke Dera ...The Moss Temple.

The Miho museum contains many items of great antiquity and when we were there it displayed mainly Bhuddist artefacts. The building was designed by I.M. Pei who designed the World Trade Centre, the additions to the Louvre and the nearby Shumei headquarters that can be seen from the museum, particularly the beautiful Bell Tower. The Museum is the work of Mrs. Mihoko Koyama and her daughter Hiroko. Mihoko was an Heiress to a textile company that had amassed a great fortune and she began collecting Antiquities from all over the ancient world.

We can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Miho. It takes a couple of hours by Public transport but it is accesible and well worth the effort. The journey by electric car through the tunnel to the Museum proper is like being part of a very tastefully designed James Bond set. I think we should have stopped for lunch in the reception centre before the museum visit but you live and learn and we were a little confused and very excited. There is a video on this page of the Museum and I recommend a look.

From the reception centre to the museum by electric car

Interior of the museum, it's a whole complex of sensational buildings. 

Saiho-ji in Autumn ...double wow ... triple..  well you get it . Saiho-ji or the Moss Temple is an Imperial property and as such you must apply to visit and you must wait for your Ticket (which is beautiful in itself) to be sent to you or your accomodation in Kyoto, so you must apply in plenty of time. The Photographs and video on this page were taken in late November and the red of the maples against the greens of the 120 different kinds of moss simply have to be experienced to be believed. We visited some beautiful places on this trip and I have been to some beautiful places in my life but this one at this time was just breathtaking.

There are more than 120 varities of Moss at Saiho-ji , also known as Koke Dera ...The Moss Temple

There is a donation of approx $30 per person and before you walk in the garden it is mandatory to enter in some way into a Rinzai Zen Bhuddist ceremony. This in itself was a thing of wonder. We were required to sit just outside the main temple and because we were westerners with no idea of how to write Kanji characters we had to trace over some Sutras as best we could using a caligraphy pen. I just realised the other day that I started from the top left instead of the bottom right, oh well klutz again, they didn't mind.

While we were doing this we could clearly hear the magical sound of chanting and bells punctuated by occasional drumming. Being a musician, well a bass player anyway, I live through my ears and Bhuddist chants do it for me big time. On a previous trip we had come in from London. So being jet lagged we woke up at about five in the morning in Asakusa and followed my ears to a ceremony taking place nearby. The Jet lag ( Jisa boke in Japanese .... 'a little bit time crazy')  and the chanting sure took me somewhere nice.  After a shortish period of tracing we then had to write a wish and our addresses and present our paper inside the Temple. The effect of this was to be slowed down and attentive to the ones surroundings, just the sort of mood you want to be in on a visit to heaven. Once again look at the video; it’s worth it even if I do say so myself.

Before you are allowed to walk in the gardens you must participate in a Rinzai Zen ceremony. Uggs are popular

The last day after our breakfast and check out at the Kyo-no-yado-Kagihei, no check out shock the beer came from a vending machine just outside our door on the way to the bath. A small diversion *Japanese vending machines*   FAR OUT. Terrific coffee in a can, about a squillion varieties, hot lemon juice and honey in a can, we thought it was orange juice so it was a shock but we looked for it from then on, lovely on a very cold Takayama morning. Down to Kyoto eki wa to wait for our bitter sweet last Shinkansen ride. 

We had a two hour wait but Kyoto station is pretty easy place to spend time in, great shops, food, uniqlo tees, all in a 22nd century huge glass and steel building. We changed just outside Tokyo for the Narita express and that was it, onto our JAL 777 and home in a twinkle.

On the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo... there Fuji  out the left side 

To everyone who helped us including Ms Ayako Mitsui of Mitsui Travel and everyone who treated us with kindness and understanding, we'd just like to say "Domo arrigato gozaimas" and to everyone who got us on our way, especially the Tanabe city tourist board, "YOKU DEKI MASHITA"   ... what a country and what a people.

Thank you and good night.

Paul Wheeler's Articles on Japan:

Yokahama and Yudanaka Takayama   Toba and Kii Katsuura

The Kumano Kodo   Nara and Kyomizu dera  

Copyright Paul Wheeler and Kerry Ritson 2012, All Rights Reserved. 

 Mt. Fuji

 The moss makes very liquid shapes of the ground 

 This is one of Kerry’s best ever photographs