After a restful and peaceful night at Shunkō-in Temple, we had breakfast in the most adorable restaurant in the world. It’s a small place, painted green and with only five tables, but it’s almost entirely decorated with toy frogs! The elderly woman behind the counter spoke a little English, and brought us huge slabs of toast with jam, and we got to eat them surrounded by the tick tick of dozens and dozens of mechanical frog clocks and toys. She had frog banners and lights, curtains and window ornaments, plates and cutlery, napkins, you name it. Super, super cute.
Afterward, we took a quick subway to visit the interior and gardens of Tenryu-ji Temple. We roamed around the “balcony” area of the main hall, peeking into some of the rooms and getting wonderful views from one end of the hall through the calm and sparse interior, to the back and its broad views of the garden through the open shōji screens. There are two famous paintings in the temple, one of a dragon, which we found on the garden side, and another of a man’s face, which we found in another part of the temple, where we could leave our borrowed slippers at the doors and walk around on the tatami mats.
Rowan is a pro at entering temples by now, and doesn’t have to be told to take off his shoes, look for a space to place them on a shelf and then put on the slippers each temple allows visitors to use while walking around on wooden surfaces. He also knows, automatically, to take them off before stepping onto the tatami, and it’s amazing to see him perform these little rituals with such ease and comfort, as if he’s done them his whole life.
The temple access allowed us into a small garden close to the main hall under a covered passageway that’s open on both sides. The garden is delicate and beautiful, with a small stream running through it, little stone lanterns, and lovely shrubs and trees, including a blossoming apricot tree.
After walking through the temple twice (once wasn’t enough for Rowan!), we put our slippers into one of the bins, put our shoes back on and walked through the gate into the main garden, which includes a large koi pond and a narrow trail up the side of a hill at the back. The views around the pond are stunning, and the little benches lining the side of the temple were filled with people just sitting and staring at the water and the trees surrounding it.
Before you exit, you can walk through the forest into a bamboo grove, with thin, tall bamboo trees reaching toward the sky. It was really crowded with people and the most tourists we’ve seen so far in Japan, walking back and forth along the path, taking pictures and bumping into each other because we’re all looking up at the trees instead of down at our feet. Which makes complete sense, really.
By the time we wound our way out onto the main road, we were ready for lunch and found a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, where we each had a very intricate lunch made up several traditional dishes all in small bowls and containers. It was like a food adventure and we loved tasting each dish (and figuring out how to eat it), and though it took us a while to make our way through everything, we had a great time, while listening to traditional Japanese instrumental music.