A Visit to Tofuku-ji

I love sharing photographs from my research trips to Japan, both because of my fondness for Japanese culture, history, and architecture and because I like giving context to go along with the images. (I notice a lot of online photos show the setting, but don’t explain it, and I hope my “virtual tours” will help give context to these incredible sites.) Today, we’re visiting Tofuku-ji, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple just south of Kyoto that also provided one of the settings for my first Hiro Hattori / Shinobi mystery, Claws of the Cat.   In fact, the Sanmon at Tofuku-ji is the oldest such gate in

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A Visit to Kyoto’s Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji (sometimes known merely as “Eikan-do”) is Japan’s head temple for the Jōdo-shū, or “Pure Land” Buddhist sect. With its focus on faith, and specifically on Amida Buddha, Pure Land Buddhism differs from the popular Zen schools often followed by members of the samurai class (especially during Japan’s medieval age); however, many samurai families followed Pure Land teachings. Originally founded in 863 as “Zenrin-ji” (in Japanese, “ji” means “temple”), the temple continued to expand through the centuries, adding new buildings and reconstructing older ones as the need arose. The temple is famous, in part, for its statue of Amida Buddha, which looks over its shoulder rather

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Along the Philosopher’s Path

During my research trip to Japan last summer, I spent a lovely morning walking the Philosopher’s Path, which runs along a tree-lined canal:   from Ginkaku-ji (in the north):   to Nanzen-ji, at the southern end of the canal, a distance of just under two miles. My son and I walked the path together, and though a determined traveler can cover the distance in under an hour, the wise visitor takes much longer, and stops to see the various shrines and temples along the way. Our afternoon on the Philosopher’s path took almost four hours, start to finish, and though the larger

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