This was a gray, warm, muggy day when I needed lots of help and everyone I met was wonderful to me. I just missed the bus as I got out of the subway. The next one was scheduled for 40 minutes later. I decided to walk; probably less than a kilometer. The trouble with walking is figuring out the starting point. I stopped a young couple and asked for directions, which they gave me with some difficulty, but enough information for me to start walking. I knew it would be a straight shot once I had the correct road. After I had gone about 200 meters a car stopped and the young man offered me a ride. Since the road was beginning to climb (most temples are on or near mountains) I happily accepted. Help #1.
Entry courtyard, Samboin
I paid my 500 yen admission and was told no photographs. At that point I was wondering why I had come. Then I had to go into a building, first removing my shoes. The two steps leading into the building were extremely high and, as usual, there were no railings. Help #2 arrived in the shape of one of the men who worked for the temple. After the steps I was summarily urged toward the garden and continued to wonder why I had come.
Samboin is absolutely the most fascinating garden I have visited and they don’t allow photographs. I could cry. There seems to be only a few images on the internet. Three guards are posted to make sure you don’t take photos. I could understand if they were selling good photos, but they aren’t. I bought two postcards with lousy pictures.
Diagram of the garden
It is a pond garden with a mountain as backdrop and all of the usual elements, islands, lanterns, pine trees. It’s the details that count and there are amazing details. Two islands, covered with pine trees, and representing tortoise and crane, are the unusual part of the garden. One has a pine tree purported to be 600 years old. This is a small tree, almost a Bonsai, with a huge, thick trunk, and represents the quietness of a tortoise. The other island has a stone bridge on its left side that represents the neck of the crane.
I stood and looked, trying to memorize the scene, as long as my legs allowed. Again, no place to sit except the floor. When I finally left the same old man helped me down the stairs, after having a considerable conversation with me. Help #3 and he was cute.
I walked back to the subway; much easier going downhill and went one stop to visit two other temples. I tried to follow the map in the subway and went off in the wrong direction. My intention was to visit Zuishin-in first. I asked several people and got directions in Japanese that were meaningless. Finally asked another man who indicated he would take me there. We stopped at the first temple where we each rang the bell and prayed. I don’t know what he prayed for: I just asked to find Zuishin-in. He probably thought I was a follower because I am wearing a good luck bracelet that was put on me at the temple on Koyasan.
We finally came to a large temple with no signage, he assured me was Zuishin-in and help #4 left. The sign at the entrance indicated it would cost 400 yen. I paid and found out I was at Kaiju-ji. The lady at the window showed me a diagram of how to get to Zuishin-in and I walked into a wonderful garden at Kaiju-ji and was enormously pleased I had made this mistake.
When I finally left the garden I thanked the woman and indicated how much I enjoyed it. She gave me this hand drawn diagram of how to get to Zuishin-in. Help #6.
The only trouble with these kinds of directions is where do they really begin. Do I turn right immediately after I leave the temple of is there another right and a left first? I finally figured it out and got to Zuishin-in, which turned out not to be nearly as wonderful as Kaiju-ji. Also needed a hand getting up and down their railingless steps; not a boost this time, just a hand for balance.That was help #7 and #8.
Finally it was time to return to the subway that was a long way underground. I knew I had come up in an elevator but couldn’t remember where it was. Help #9 guided me across the street and into the elevator. And I was able to buy cooked broccoli for dinner, making it a great day.