I don’t know how I missed both Higashi and Nishi Honganji my first visit, since they’re both HUGE and quite near Kyoto station:
This didn’t photograph well through the glass case, but the story is awesome: a rope weighing a literal ton, made of women’s hair, who would cut it off to donate to the temple. It was used to lift the temple’s beams into place:
I’ve heard the priests chanting at a good many temples now, but the song at Nishi Honganji wasn’t the plain monotone it sometimes is. It was a real *song*, and so beautiful I waited until it repeated on the half-hour.
Impressive enough outside, but the really fascinating stuff is inside. For one, you follow a path through dozens of rooms, and every one is covered with gold and detailed paintings:
These are scanned from the book I bought after because you couldn’t take pictures inside. Kyoto is a good place for buying the picture-guidebooks because they expect foreign tourists so they’re often printed bilingual, and sometimes with correct English.
If the world as we know it ended, and almost everyone died, but I survived the plague and cannibalism and other inevitable collapse-of-society mishaps, I would spend all my time living in historical treasures like this, the way they used to be lived in but now only have tour groups walk through behind ropes. Look at that little staggered shelf. How can you not want to put things on it, and open and close the drawers, and just lay around looking at those ceilings?
The floor at the bottom may not look like much, but it’s the famous nightingale floor (鴬張り, uguisubari). Each board is carefully balanced to create a chirping noise when an assassin tries to creep in. It’s a pretty small sound, actually, not as loud as I was expecting and I bet a heavy sleeper would wake up dead. It’s also nowhere near as beautiful as the song of the actual uguisu, the Japanese bush-warbler sometimes called the Japanese nightingale.