4 Going to Nirvana in “Eikando”

I do not dislike, rainy season.
Although I do feel the melancholy, of not being able to do my laundry, or going outside much. I like the period of time when I can relax and read books alone, listening to the raindrops.
But, that was until I started living by myself. Because of the rainy weather day after day, the pile of laundry keeps growing bigger and bigger. And to know how awful it is to go shopping with an umbrella in one hand, oh, how I miss the cleared-up sky. I began to wish more often, for the blue sky on the other side of the clouds.
---Since you’re in Kyoto, visit many places.
The other day, after Professor Masaki said that to me in Keibunsha, I was just thinking, that’s true, I was making busyness an excuse for staying inside, but I should make some time to go out, when the start of the rainy season was announced. Even though I took my camera out, the opportunity to use it does not seem to come. I was leafing through a tourist guide in my room, and by chance, Eikando caught my eyes.
---Eikando Zenrinji, is a place where the merciful heart of Amida-sama (Amitabha) has been observed and passed on, from long ago in the Heian period. It is famous for their colorful leaves in fall, often called “Eikando of fall colors”, and becomes full of visitors during the fall season---
If I remembered correctly, one of the places we visited on our school trip, in the fall of 6th grade, was this Eikando. At that time, there were so many people because it was the height of the fall colors, and since I did not have my camera with me, I ended up just being jostled in the crowd. Thinking back now, that was a very mottainai thing to do.
Then, if I went to Eikando now, what might happen?
I felt the idea and curiosity rising in my mind, and unexpectedly, I decided to visit Eikando, when it stops raining next.
Then came Sunday.
Not cloudless, but no sign of cold rain starting to fall. The gray cloud, different from the heavy look I always see, seems as though it is saying, the rain shall not do as it pleases today. Spreading its large body across the sky, it is taking the opportunity to protect the laundries so that they would not get wet.
If I miss this chance, it will be another few days ahead before nice weather. It is the perfect day, to do the laundry, or to go to the grocery store to stock up food. Even so, I abandoned everything, and burst out of my room with my camera in my hand.
Very few tourists were visiting because of the rainy season, although it was a weekend. I looked around, only to see one, or two people. Even though considering the bad weather, is it not too empty? I wonder if people visiting this place, all come only for the burning red Japanese maple leaves.
All the buildings, and the green maple leaves, looked somewhat amorous because of the rain, and made my heart flutter. During the rainy season, I hardly ever get out to take pictures, so I never knew that the world shines like this. I kind of understood, the feeling of men, saying that women look sexy after taking a bath. The professor would probably frown and say “huh?” if I tell him this.
I took off my shoes, and quietly, stepped into the Shoin-zukuri styled Shaka-do hall. The professor was with me the other day, so somehow it took shape, but come to think of it, it is my first time, to visit a temple by myself. I opened the pamphlet which I received at the reception, and looked all around with restless eyes.
In the Shaka-do, you can see lots of glorious fusuma-e (paintings on fusuma or sliding screens). “Matsu Tori Zu (painting of pine trees and birds)”, “Gun-sen Zu (painting of hermits)”, and “Aki-kusa Zu (painting of autumn flowers)”. I strained my eyes, fixedly, trying to burn the images onto my retinas, since I could not take any pictures. How can people, paint so delicately and beautifully like this from long ago? Oh, maybe if the professor was here, he might have given me some kind of a hint, such presumptuous thought comes to mind.
If I came in the season of fall colors, I would probably not be able to notice, how chilly it becomes from the tip of my toes, or how absolute silence fills the hall, and just lightly looked around. As like it was, the last time I came here. Because no one is here, I can feel all the fascination of Eikando, taking my time like this. Although the burning red maples cannot be seen, the fresh tender greenery is here. So are the fusuma-e, and the corridor called “Garyuro (The laying dragon passage)”, they are here, all year round.
After I had finished looking around the Shaka-do, I headed towards the Amida-do. It was dim, just a little bit. When I straighten my back slightly and went inside, there were a few visitors, and a person from the temple, was explaining something.
“---This, is the ‘Mikaeri Amida (Amitabha looking back)’”
I moved my view to the direction that was pointed out, and, oh, my voice almost leaked.
I have seen Amida statues in textbooks several times before, but nothing, is like what is in front of me now. What was there, was an image of Amida-sama looking backwards, tilting the neck to the left side.
“This image of ‘looking back’ symbolizes, ‘the attitude to wait for the late ones’, ‘the attitude to look around considerately’, ‘the attitude to look back on oneself, and move forward in the right direction with others’. Please feel the heart of Amida-sama, who cannot help but to look also to the side, for the people that is unable to come to the front side, even while being receptive to countless people’s hearts from the front.”
The few people around me, said ohh, raising their voices in awe. How merciful, this is amazing, it sure is, I’m glad we got to see this--- they were talking to one another, facing each other. I alone, could not say anything, and kept on gazing at Amida-sama’s calm face.
What is, this feeling?
I surely have been here before, but it is completely different, from the last time.
From when I was little, I have liked Japanese culture. I collected traditional Japanese patterned things, or sometimes watched historical TV dramas, and vaguely, was interested in the country called Japan. But, it did not mean that I was really into the history. It did not mean that I liked temples or shrines. There were times I stopped by to visit these places while touring, satisfied just by visiting, thinking, oh it’s like this, the atmosphere is nice. I never really thought about the meaning of those places, and just thought I knew.
The reason I came to Kyoto was the same. I just vaguely thought, that classical literature and Japanese history are interesting, and I like the atmosphere, so I decided to continue my education here. No more, than that.
---Since you’re in Kyoto…….
I was remembering, again, the words the professor said to me, the other day.
Oh, now I see, what he meant. That is why, he took me to Konpukuji.
It is probably, different, to be satisfied by the scenery. “Eikando of fall colors”. I repeated, the overly famous phrase, in my head. The fall colors must also be, beautiful. The maple leaves dyeing the entire garden red must be, ethereally tasteful, and wonderful. But, that is not all, of Eikando. That is not, everything.
---Indeed, indeed.
As if nodding to my thought, Amida-sama in front of me, was gently smiling as ever.
I went out the Amida-do, and gazed blankly at the Hojo-ike pond from the Kinunkyo bridge.
The green maple leaves, wet from the rain, went twinkle-twinkle, sparkling like they are welcoming me. The color red is likely to come to mind when you hear Japanese maple. Somewhere in my mind, I must have thought so, too.
But, how beautiful the tender greenery is!
How wonderful, the world after the rain is!
If the scenery shines like this, it does not matter if I cannot do my laundry. I do not mind walking under an umbrella. After the rain, a much-valued shutter chance awaits. Viewing it in this way, I could not resist smiling, going he-he, although I was alone.
Just then, my cell phone began to play a melody in my pocket. This music, is not for a message, but for a call. Was there anyone, who would call me on the phone? I have already paid my rent for this month, and my contact means with my friends and family is by email……. I was startled, to see the name on the screen when I took out the cell phone.
The call was from, Professor Masaki. We exchanged our contact information so that I can send him the picture data, the other day, but that was it. Did I, do something bad, bad enough to make him call me? I feel my heart, beating fast. Certainly not like the heartbeat from love. The heartbeat, from a bad feeling.
Fearfully, I pressed the talk button, and a mechanical-sounding voice than ever, rang in my ear.
‘Miss Misaka, good morning’
“It’s already noon, Professor”
I get somewhat, nervous, to talk on the phone with someone in a superior position like a professor. Why, of course. We did happen to act together that time, but usually, we are just a “professor” and a “student”. Just listening, quietly, to the professor who is giving lectures from the platform. Even after going to Konpukuji, it was not like we started to have more conversations, nor was it like our eyes meet, during his lectures. So, why would he call me, all of a sudden?
But the person on the other side of the phone, did not seem to understand a bit of my delicate heart, and said this in his usual tone.
“I need your help. Can you come now?” 

Official Name  Zenrinji
Common Name  Eikando
Sango  Shojuraigosan
Denomination  Jodoshu Seizan Zenrinji-ha
Founded  853 (3rd year in the Ninju era)
Address  48 Eikando-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
TEL  +81-75-761-0007
URL  http://www.eikando.or.jp
Access  ・Kyoto City Bus Route 5 from Kyoto Station, 3 minute walk from Nanzenji・Eikando-michi Bus Stop
・Kyoto City Bus Express Route 100 from Kyoto Station, 8 minute walk from Higashi Tennou-cho Bus Stop
・Kyoto City Subway Tozai Line, 15 minute walk from Keage Station    
Opening Hours   9:00~17:00 (Reception closes at 16:00)
Ordinary Visit Opening  Daily. Except during Autumnal Exhibition Period 
Admission Fee  Adults…600 yen. Children (Age: 6 to 18)…400 yen

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