Yeah, the title pretty much sums up what happened when I visited Kiyomizu-dera back in August. There were a few things working against me. I had arrived in Kyoto earlier in the day and was exhausted. I was also sick but refusing to just take it easy and get better (because why would I do the responsible, smart thing?). Oh, and I was using a new lens I had picked up used that afternoon when I took a quick side trip to Osaka because the sensor in my V1 was broken. Enough excuses though…
It was an interesting fever-fueled experience. The temple was lit up in evening, which is unusual. In addition, there was special access to the main statue of the temple. It was an interesting way to see the temple and a unique experience.
I left the hostel in the evening and wandered in the general direction of the temple. I started to follow a group of people. Following large groups of people usually ensures you will see something amazing when you are in a foreign country during a holiday period. I made my way up a hill, the temple in sight. As I got closer the crowds grew larger. Once on the temple grounds I made my way around the complex. The atmosphere was a mix of a carnival and a serious, somber event. Two opposite ends of the spectrum blended together, creating a confusing and slightly intoxicated feeling. Then again, maybe that was the fever affecting my brain.
I eventually came to a doorway with two lines. At first I did not realize that there were two lines. As I stood waiting to move forward I noticed that some people were walking by the line and going through the massive doorway. A man working there kept making an announcement but all I could understand was “three days”. The rest of what he said was a blur of Japanese. As I looked around my confusion was apparent to the woman standing behind me with her two daughters and their grandmother. She told me I should stay on the line, that this was a special event that only lasts three days.
Why not? I’m sure it will be fine. That was my train of thought. Just follow whatever this woman tells me. Seemed like a plan. WHile waiting on line I noticed that even the lamps had tiny details. The bottom of the lamp was covered in writing. We made our way into the temple. As I entered the small, crowded, completely wooden structure I was met with white candles of varying sizes. People were buying candles and writing on them. I looked back at the woman, wondering what I should do. She said not to worry, I did not have to buy the candles. That was good, because I had no idea what I was supposed to write if I did. After people wrote on the candles they lit them and walked to one of the numerous Buddhas to place the candle in front of and pray.
And thats when the thought what could possibly go wrong seemed to play over and over in my head. I was in an old wooden structure. A crowded, old, wooden structure filled with lit candles. People of all ages, including small children were walking around, squeezing past each other while holding a burning candle. There was only one way out from what I could tell, the same way we came in. In the end everything worked out. Kiyomizu-dera is still standing.