Thursday, November 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y sieta

Have a cup of joe at 14°30'34.81"N, 121°0'48.12"E
Spotted in NAIA Terminal 2 by Zhequia of FTW! Food, Travel, and Whatevs
Thanks Zhequia!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Monday, October 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y seis

Imagine all the people lemons, living for today...
only to end up in a plastic cup to quench your thirst.
Spotted in SM City Dasmarinas by Zhequia of FTW! Food, Travel, and Whatevs
Thanks Zhequia!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park

November 26, 2016
Saturday
Nara Park

It is still a bit dark and quite chilly at 630AM as I gently close the door of Hiloki Hostel and take the two-minute walk to the bus terminal at Nara Station where I will board a bus to Nara Park. I'm going to go see Kasuga Taisha this early to avoid the busloads of tourists that are sure to come at (I am guessing) around 9AM, after they have had a hearty breakfast and a cup of coffee.

A manhole cover in Nara City

I arrive at the bus stop for Kasuga Taisha just as the sun is rising and I see a few people in the field taking photos of deer. Some are luring the deer with rice crackers, making the deer gather around and giving the feeder/photographer time to shoot some photos up close. I follow one feeder/photographer a bit and sneakily take some photos myself.





The deer are considered sacred because according to legend, a god is said to have come to Nara riding on a white deer. But I did not come to Nara Park this early for the deer (any time of the day and anywhere in the park, one will surely see deer, because I read somewhere that there are about 1200 deer that roam the park) but for Kasuga Taisha, a 1300+ year old Shinto Shrine that's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kasuga Taisha
春日大社
April to September 6AM to 6PM
October to March 630AM to 5PM
Inner Area 830AM to 4PM
Inner Area admission fee: 500 yen

The path to Kasuga Taisha is lined with stone lanterns and shaded by trees on both sides, and crossed by deer wherever. All these slow me down, but I am not in a hurry anyway. I love the peace and quiet; the cool, fresh morning air; the abundance of trees.


Kasuga Taisha's temizuya (where you purify yourself by washing your hands and mouth) is what else? A deer!



I reach Kasuga Taisha's inner area 30 minutes before opening time. I return to the path and follow it further where it leads me to Wakamiya Jinja and a dozen or so smaller shrines. Before returning to Kasuga Taisha's inner area, I observe a shinshoku (person responsible for the maintenance of the Shinto shrine) do his morning prayers at Wakamiya Jinja.

A small shrine

And the ema, where prayers/wishes are written, are also shaped like a deer!

I enter Kasuga Taisha's inner area through Nanmon (south gate) at 830AM. The inner area is surrounded by a covered walkway with white walls, vermillion columns, and green lattice windows. Lanterns of different designs and colors (bronze, gold, green) donated by the shrine's worshippers hang along the walkway.

Chumon (middle gate) and Oro (open veranda)




Lanterns also hang from the eaves of the Chumon (middle gate) and the Naoraiden Hall (a hall where feasts and morning worship services are held). There is a man taking photos of a small chicken stuffed toy with the Chumon as the background (I later learn that people usually take a photo of the coming year's Chinese zodiac animal and send it as new year's day cards).

Behind the Chumon is Kasuga Taisha's main sanctuary where the shrine's four main deities are enshrined.


Lanterns hang from the eaves of Naoraiden Hall

There is also a small room called Fujinami-no-ya Hall which used to be the shrine's priests' office. Now it is a dark room filled with lit lanterns. Enchanting.

Inside Fujinami-no-ya Hall

In different areas of the sanctuary are small vermillion altars for deities and more behind the main sanctuary. There are deities to protect from evil, to protect from enemies, to protect from disasters, to grant long lives, etc.


In less than an hour, I have seen every corner of Kasuga Taisha's inner area. I skip Kasuga Taisha's botanical garden (9AM to 5PM, 500 yen) and museum (10AM to 5PM, 500 yen), and go back to the hostel to check out and leave my bag at the reception and then go to Kintetsu Nara Station, the meeting place for the Naramachi Walking Tour that will promptly start at 10AM. I will return to Nara Park in the afternoon to see two more UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are located within the park: Todaiji and Kofukuji.



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1½: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1¾–2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3½: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at the Park (you're here!)
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado

Saturday, September 30, 2017

What's in a (Business) Name? Sesenta y cinco

Ooh la la, what beautiful eyelashes you have!
Spotted in Greenbelt Makati by Zhequia of FTW! Food, Travel, and Whatevs
Thanks Zhequia!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 3½: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City

November 25, 2016
Friday
PM

This day is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, five to be exact. After spending my morning visiting more-than-a-millenium-old wooden structures in Horyuji and Hokkiji in Ikaruga Town, I return to Nara City to visit two temples and a palace (or more accurately, its remains).

The bus lets me and two Japanese women alight at the bus stop for Yakushiji, by a large but near-empty parking area. 'Ah, good', I think to myself, 'not too many tourists here.' I follow my map and walk by a dozen vending machines all in a row and two small Shinto shrines (Yasumigaoka-hachimangu and Magotaro Inari) devoid of worshippers and visitors before I reach the south gate of Yakushiji.

If you have some yen, you'll never go thirsty here

Yasumigaoka-hachimangu

Yakushiji
薬師寺
Daily 830AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 1100 yen (800 yen when Genjo-sanzoin Garan is closed)
* Genjo-sanzoin Garan is closed from mid-January to February, July to mid-September, and December

Emperor Tenmu started the construction of Yakushiji in the year 680 in Asuka (a town south of Nara), as an offering and prayer for the recovery of his wife, but, ironically, it was he who died first. His empress continued the construction of the temple and it was completed in the year 698. When the capital was moved to Nara in 710, Yakushiji was also moved to the present site eight years later.

Typical of temples, Yakushiji too has gates, main hall, lecture hall, and pagoda (Yakushiji has two). But unlike Horyuji and Hokkiji, the two temples I visited in the morning, the buildings of Yakushiji were painted in red and white and with green windows.

Yakushiji's Main Hall

Because of fires and wars, most of Yakushiji was destroyed in 1528 and only the east pagoda and the Yakushi Triad (the temple's principal Buddha images) survived. (I wonder how the east pagoda looks. It is currently under a huge tent undergoing renovation and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.) The current Kondo (main hall) was built in 1976, the west pagoda in 1980.

The Yakushi Triad, a national treasure, can be viewed in the Kondo. It was originally covered with gold, but because of the fire in 1528, it is now black and shiny. In the center is Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Healing. Flanking the Yakushi Nyorai are two bodhisattvas: Nikko Bosatsu and Gakko Bosatsu.

Yakushi Triad (Photo from Fudo Myo-o)

 West Pagoda

In the Daikodo (great lecture hall) are more religious national treasures like images of buddha, a stone with an imprint of buddha's feet, and a tablet inscribed with verses.

Yakushiji's Great Lecture Hall

There are a few more buildings but they don't look interesting to me. I proceed to Genjo-sanzoin Garan, a separate walled area a short walk north of Yakushiji.

Genjo-sanzoin Garan is only open seven months a year and I am lucky it is open on this visit. I was impressed with Yakushiji's main hall and pagoda, and, though small and recent (built in 1981), am impressed by Genjo-sanzoin Garan, too. There is something about this small complex that makes me linger and stare a few minutes more.

Genjo-sanzoin Garan


Toshodaiji
唐招提寺
830AM to 5PM
Admission fee: 600 yen (+200 yen for Treasure House)

Just a short 500-meter walk north, I find another world heritage site: Toshodaiji, founded by Ganjin Wajo, a Chinese Buddhist priest, in the year 759.

The first building I see after entering Toshodaiji's gate is the main hall. I take a peek inside and see Buddha statues of different sizes.

Toshodaiji's Main Hall

Behind and to the right of the main hall is the Koro, a small hall containing relics (but I don't see the relics—the Koro is closed). Directly behind the main hall is the Kodo (lecture hall) which is actually a building from Nara/Heijo Palace and is the only surviving building of the former palace.

Koro

Also in the temple grounds are the Rye-do where memorial ceremonies are held; Higashi-muro, where monks sleep; Kyozo, a storehouse for sutras and also the oldest building in Toshodaiji; and Hozo, a storehouse for treasures.

Hozo (storehouse for treasures)

Northeast of the temple grounds I find a path shaded by trees. This path leads me to the Kaizan Gobyo, a memorial for Ganjin Wajo, the founder of Toshodaiji.

Towering trees shade the path to Kaizan Gobyo

A lantern at Kaizan Gobyo

From Toshodaiji, I go to the nearest bus stop, a 5-minute walk. It is a bright and sunny autumn afternoon and the temperature is perfect. The short walk gives me a glimpse of this local neighborhood, of locals whiling away time by fishing in the river.

 A peaceful neighborhood

 Gone fishing

A path by the river

Nara/Heijo Palace Site
Tuesdays to Sundays 9AM to 430PM
Free admission

A grand red and white gate (Suzaku Gate, reconstructed in 1998) welcomes me to Nara or Heijo Palace Site. When Nara was the capital of Japan, this was where the emperor's residence and the government offices were. I walk through the gate and find a vast area of grass and one solitary building in the middle that looks so small because of the distance.

  Suzaku Gate

I walk and walk and walk until the small solitary building becomes bigger and bigger and bigger. This building is the Former Imperial Audience Hall, which was the largest and most important building in the palace. The current building is a reconstruction and was completed in 2010, the 1300th anniversary of the Nara Capital. The reconstruction took nine years and it was based upon archaeological and architectural studies. Inside the building are exhibits about its reconstruction.



The grassy areas around are not all grass, there are foundation stones protruding, the only remains of the buildings in the palace.

Building foundations

On the southeast corner of the palace grounds is the East Palace Garden, a reconstruction completed in 1998, but I skip this. I go instead to the northeast side and find the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall. Inside are excavation sites showing visitors archaeological digs in situ. From the Excavation Site Exhibition Hall, I go to the west side, where the Nara Palace Site Museum is. This museum showcases unearthed artifacts such as roof tiles, ornaments, etc.

The Palace Site is so immense that going from one end to the other end made me too tired to go back to the Suzaku Gate. I look for the nearest exit and when I find it, I ask the guard if there is a bus stop nearby. Thankfully there is one just a hundred meters away and I find it without a problem. I wait for bus #12 or bus #14 in an open shed where a stooped Japanese grandma joins me.

Had I been short on time, I would have skipped these places. I am glad I started early in the day which gave me enough time to visit these oft–ignored (by tourists) world heritage sites. I love how quiet these places were. I look forward and kind of dread (the crowds) tomorrow when I visit the popular tourist sites in Nara City: Nara Park and Todaiji.



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1½: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1¾–2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3½: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City (you're here!)
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kansai Diaries, Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and Some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town

For people who love visiting historic places, Nara and Kyoto cities are some of the places in Japan teeming with history. Not only are these two cities previous capitals of Japan, but also these are home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Most people (or at least those that I know that have been to Japan) only do a day trip to Nara from Kyoto or Osaka to see the deer and Todaiji. But being a World Heritage Site nerd, I spent two whole days in Nara.

November 25, 2016
Friday
AM

I arrived in Nara the night before and settled in in Hiloki Hostel. I had already bought my bus pass at Nara Station and had gotten the schedule for the bus headed to the town of Ikaruga, where I plan to start my day of World Heritage site hopping.

The first bus to Ikaruga Town doesn't leave until almost 9AM, quite late for me because I am an early riser (truth is my body clock is that of a grandfather's). I decide to leave around 7AM, taking the train from Nara Station to Horyuji Station, and warming up my legs by taking a 20-minute walk from Horyuji Station to a temple called Horyuji.

The main streets in Ikaruga Town are still and deserted this early in the morning. I walk through main roads and narrow residential areas and I am surprised to find directional signs under my feet. A kilometer and a half or so later, I reach a simple 300-meter lane with trees on both sides and the temple straight ahead—I am almost there! But a sign warning me of bees (the sign was in English) stops me and I do not make a beeline to the temple. Instead I backtrack and find a parallel street free of bees—no shortcuts, no bees.

Nobody out and about yet at 7AM in this town


Beware of bees in this area

Horyuji
法隆寺
8AM to 5PM (430PM November to February)
Admission fee: 1500 yen (includes entry to Saiin Garan, Daihozoin, and Toin Garan)

I arrive at Horyuji about 15 minutes before 8AM and enter through Nandaimon (south main gate), but the Saiin Garan (western precinct), which is a paid area, is still closed. An elderly man in overalls is sweeping outside. I stand and wait near the entrance ramp of Saiin Garan. The only sound I hear is of the man's broom, swish swish swish.

A Japanese grandma who is passing by smiles and stops to talk to me. She talks to me oh so animatedly in Japanese and I tell her I cannot understand Japanese, but she goes on, trying her best to convey her message with hand gestures. In the middle of our "conversation", I sniff (my body was adjusting to Japan's low temperatures causing my nose to run), and she points to me then to her nose, makes an X with her forearms, then covers her nose and mouth with her palm. She isn't telling me I stink, is she? (I am sure I brushed my teeth this morning.) I think she's telling me I should wear a mask because I have colds! Aside from that, I understood two other things from our "conversation": that Horyuji won't open until 8AM and there is another temple, called Chuguji, just east of Horyuji. I thank her with a smile and she goes on her way. I love these old Japanese folks!

 Horyuji's Nandaimon (south main gate) was restored in 1438

8AM and Horyuji's Saiin Garan opens. The worker in overalls motions for me to go in. In the temple grounds are beautiful wooden buildings connected by pathways, the open space between buildings covered in gravel.

Horyuji was built by Prince Shotoku in the year 607 to fulfill Emperor Yomei's vow to build a temple and an image of Buddha as a prayer for recovery (the emperor died before he could fulfill his vow). Horyuji is home to the world's oldest surviving wooden structures (no destruction at all, just renovation works): Horyuji's Chumon (central gate), Kondo (main hall), and Gujo-no-to (five-storied pagoda).

Left to right: Gujo-no-to (five-storied pagoda), Daikodo (Great Lecture Hall), and Kondo (Main Hall)

I do not get to see Japan's oldest (8th century) clay Kongo Rikishi, the guardian deities that stand guard in Chumon, because the gate itself is hidden under scaffoldings and covers for renovation work. I proceed instead to the two buildings at the center: the Gujo-no-to and the Kondo.

Kondo (main hall) and Goju-no-to (five-storied pagoda)

I look inside Gujo-no-to and see four ancient clay statues of Buddha. In the Kondo are three ancient bronze statues of Buddha for which Horyuji is dedicated, wooden statues of guardians, and wooden statues of gods. And along the walls of Kondo are murals. (No photos allowed inside Gujo-no-to and Kondo.)

 Goju-no-to

Across Chumon, behind the pagoda and the main hall, is the Daikodo or the Great Lecture Hall. This was where monks would study and also where memorial services were held. The original hall burnt down in the year 925; the current hall was built in the year 990.

 Daikodo (great lecture hall)

I leave Saiin Garan to go to Daihozoin or Gallery of Temple Treasures, where I see many of Japan's cultural and historical treasures (ancient statues of Buddha, relics, paintings, etc). On the way to the gallery, I pass by Shoryoin or the Hall of Prince Shotoku's Soul, which enshrines a statue of the prince.

 Shoryoin

I move on eastward towards Toin Garan (eastern precinct) where the octagonal pavilion called Yumedono (Hall of Visions) is. Yumedono stands where Ikaruga Palace used to be. In Yumedono are ancient (8th to 12th century) statues of Prince Shotoku, of Buddha, of the monk who built the eastern precinct, and of the monk who supervised the repair of Yumedono.

 Path to Yumedono

Yumedono

Chuguji, the temple the Japanese grandma mentioned, is in another enclosed area behind Yumedono. I go there to take a peek but decide to skip going inside (separate admission fee of 600 yen).

As I exit Horyuji's Nandaimon (south main gate), I see a bus approaching and I run like the wind to catch it. I heave a sigh of relief as I sink on the bus seat and the bus starts to roll away. We travel for a kilometer or so and stop at Horyuji Station. I remain in my seat and the driver looks my way and asks me where I am going because this is the last stop. I can see a smile dancing on the corners of his mouth and I want to laugh myself—I have taken the wrong bus (#72)! I tell him I want to go to Hokkiji and he fiddles with something by his side and produces a printout of directions on how to go to Hokkiji (I guess I am not the first one to have mistakenly gotten on his bus!). Showing me the printout, he tries his best to explain to me in a handful of English words how to go to Hokkiji. He gestures for me to remain seated and he drives the bus out of the station. On the third stop he tells me that we're now at the stop where I have to take bus #97 that's scheduled to come by at 10:09AM. I thank him as I alight. He gets off too and goes inside the small office of the bus stop for a minute then goes out and drives away.

I stand outside and it is a bit chilly. The bus station staff goes out of his office and politely tells me, in Japanese and by pointing to his wristwatch, that the bus will come at 10:09. (I guess the bus driver advised him that there's a lost man outside and to make sure this lost man gets on the right bus.) And like the curious elderly Japanese in Koyasan who have stopped to talk to me, he too asks (still in Japanese) where I am from, if I was traveling alone, etc. Then he remarks, while rubbing his arms, that it is さむい samui (cold) and he leads me inside the waiting room and turns on the heater. I thank him and take a seat in the waiting room.

After a few minutes, a bus arrives and I see the bus station man signal to me through the office window. I get out of the toasty waiting room and wave a thank you to the man and get on the bus. The bus idles for a few minutes, waiting for the clock to tick 10:09. Tinkering with my phone, I have my head down and in the periphery I see blue pants and hear, "Magandang umaga! Kumusta?" I glance up and I am surprised to see a Japanese man. He shakes my hand and explains that he knows a bit of Tagalog because his wife is Filipina. We chat for a minute more and when the bus driver gets on, we say our goodbyes and the Tagalog-speaking Japanese man gets off. And I am on my way to Hokkiji.


Hokkiji
法起寺
830AM to 5PM (430PM November to February)
Admission fee: 300 yen

Hokkiji temple grounds is small. It only has four buildings (five if you include the ticket office by the entrance) and a pond. I am the only visitor in Hokkiji.  The staff at the reception gives me my ticket and a printout of Hokkiji's history (in English).

Hokkiji is a Buddhist temple and was also known as Okamoto-dera. The area used to be Okamoto Palace. There is an inscription found in the pagoda (I didn't see it, but this is what I read from the printout) that on February in the year 622 Prince Shotoku left a will for his eldest son to convert the palace into a temple.

Hokkiji's Shotendo Hall or main hall (left) and three-storied pagoda (right)

Lecture Hall

The three-storied pagoda, Shotendo (main hall), and the lecture hall are closed, and can only be admired from outside. Beside the lecture hall is a small repository where a wooden image of Kannon (goddess of mercy), an important cultural property, is housed.

Three Japanese ladies arrive and they admire the pagoda, the oldest three-storied pagoda in Japan, having been built in the year 685. The pagoda, to me, looks like a shorter version of Horyuji's pagoda, with it being all wood with white walls.

Three-storied pagoda

Ikaruga Town's manhole cover features Hokkiji's three-storied pagoda

I wander around some more and as I am about to leave I see the three Japanese women looking at a tree near the ticket office. I go closer and notice a small wooden plaque with these characters 貝多羅葉樹 バイタラヨウジユ. I have no idea what it means. It must be something important. They pluck some leaves off and bring it to an open rest area and proceed to write with a wooden stick the temple staff had lent them. They see me watching and one of them gives me a leaf and motions for me to write on my leaf too. I thank them and do as I am told and they look at what I had written (I just wrote my name) and give me an approving smile. (I find out later, through research, that the characters on the wooden plaque reads as baitarayoujyu, a pattra tree, the leaves of which were used for writing on.)

What does it say?

I leave Hokkiji and go out to the bus stop. The street is deserted. The benches at the bus stop are bathed in sunshine. I see the three ladies leave the temple and we wave goodbye to each other. I sit on the bus stop bench and wait for the bus that will take me within Nara City's boundary to my third World Heritage site for the day: Yakushiji.



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1½: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1¾–2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and Some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town (you're here!)
Nara: Day 3½: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado