Our next destination was Mitsuishiyama Kannon-ji, which was one hour drive away from Kasamori Kannon. When we arrived at the temple, it started to rain again, so Ishikawa held the umbrella like a true gentleman, and I took pictures from underneath it.
This temple is a famous power spot to pray for marriage, and it got its name from the three stones on the back of the building. The place was astonishing; the small temple looked like it was about to crush under the huge stones. The location is quite high, and in clear weather it’s possible to see Mt. Fuji.
Ishikawa, another Jinpuu-colleague, took me for a hike one rainy Sunday; our first attraction was Kasamori Kannon. Surrounded by mountainous forests, this unique temple is a perfect place to visit for a nature lover like me.
Maybe because of the weather, there were only a few other visitors when we climbed the steep wooden staircase to Kannon-do. The hall is 16 metres from the ground, and on top of it opens a panoramic view to the forests above.
Near the temple gate is the sacred Kosazukenokusu; a crooked tree, which has a small hole in its trunk. It’s believed that when children go through the hole, they receive fortune, but if a woman crawls through it, she will get pregnant.The famous Japanese ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige has captured this majestic temple to one of his prints.
This charming place was my ultimate dream-come-true work site! And not only for its serene beauty but also for our tea and lunch breaks; the treats provided by the head priest and restaurant Chao were an everyday joy for us.
The Fukujuin Temple had recently undergone massive changes: the old temple was now unoccupied and all the action was at the brand new buildings. Thus now was time to update the garden; we made several bamboo fences, planted hedgerows, and groomed the old pine trees of the yard.
Every day the head priest served us tea, and Ogiu, Ishikawa and I enjoyed it on the temple’s wooden steps. The place had a magical atmosphere; the old temple with its detailed wood carvings stood on a small hill under a giant cherry tree, stone statues guarded the garden buried with soft moss. Some days we could hear the owl’s cries from the bamboo grove.
Working at Jinpuu was hectic; we had several sites that needed the crew daily. The biggest and the most acute one was the Tokyo site. Our task was to plant 280 trees and some hedgerows to the yard of a gigantic apartment building complex, and the deadline was approaching fast. It was more disciplined work, and there were also a lot of other workers beside us and a foreman who supervised the site.
But luckily we had some smaller locations as well. Some days we planted bamboo at a private house’s entrance, cut trees or built bamboo fences. We made a brand new front lawn to one office’s headquarters’ yard, moved huge rocks from place to place, dug up big trees and carried them to some other location.
My favourite workplace was Fukujuin Temple in Kawado Village. It was a tranquil space surrounded by a quiet neighborhood and thick bamboo grove, where I often could hear owl’s cry. We made several bamboo fences and planted rows of small box trees in their yard.
I noticed that generally the common man respects gardeners; sometimes total stranger buys us coffees at the convenience store, passersby came to chat and occasionally even to lend a hand. Jinpuu staff were hard-boiled professionals, always ready to give 100 percent and still polite and humble. I learned a lot from them on a daily basis, they answered my endless questions and took care of me in so many ways.
I worked from Monday to Friday, but sometimes joined the crew on Saturdays too. Few times the rain was so heavy that Hiroto gave me a day off, but that was my privilege: everyone else worked. The work hours were from eight to twelve, and Tokyo’s rush hour could slow us down so that the journey back to Chiba took twice as long as in the morning.
We made a day trip to Kyoto with Otoosan and Chihiro. The drive took about an hour from Osaka, but it’s very easy to travel by train as well. The temple’s official name is Rokuon-ji, Deer Garden Temple, but a more popular name for it is Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Pavilion. Rokuon-ji and its magnificent strolling garden are one of Kyoto’s most admired spots, but luckily there were not too many people present.
Our next attraction was Ryōan-ji, maybe the most famous rock garden of Japan. Kare-sansui, a dry garden, made from carefully combed gravel and stones, it’s more a view than an actual garden. Commonly the sand is a symbol for the water and the rocks its islands, although it’s not clear what this particular arrangement represents. It might be tigers crossing a stream or the abstract concept of infinity. Either way, kare-sansui can help to clear one’s head while practising meditation. This plain sight left us with a relaxed feeling.