A “genre photograph” of sorts, this is a very common scene at Goten. The man in the foreground on the right is putting his shoes back on (you must remove your shoes and either carry them with you or place them in the cabinet before entering the palace area), while the students on their school trip are heading off to their next destination. On the left, one of the monks is hard at work (on a rather hot day!) raking the gravel. Just a moment in an average day!
They went up on the roof today to do some inspecting and make sure everything was okay up there. Kon-do is a rather tall building, there is no way I would want to go up on the roof, but fortunately I wasn’t the one who needed to go up to do anything! Sounds like there weren’t any problems, and even though those of us on the ground were trying to avoid the very hot sunlight as we watched, apparently it was relatively cool up there.
When I’m not typing blog posts or giving tours of Goten, you can find me sitting at the entrance right here, taking tickets and fiddling with incense. The framed documents above are Ninna-ji’s World Heritage registration forms, one in English and the other in Japanese. The entirety of the temple is registered as a World Heritage Site, not just Goten, but it is a nice place to display the documents.
The other day the North Garden got spruced up a bit. The noise of a leaf blower was quite a change from the usual tranquil atmosphere of the garden, but since the temple is open 365 days a year there is no choice but to take care of these jobs when visitors are present. During the cleaning the garden may not have had the same meditative quality as it always does, but I think that seeing some of the work that goes into maintaining the temple is valuable experience, too!
Some visitors bring stamp books with them and ask at Goten or at the little building next to Kon-do for a stamp to commemorate their visit. The picture above is of a monk completing a page at Goten where the chrysanthemum seal is used. The Japanese notes the name of the temple along with date. You can see the completed version below.For visitors who have left their books at home, there are also completed stamps available on single pieces of paper which can later be pasted into a stamp book. Both options cost some change, in the case of Ninna-ji, ￥300.
Of course if you happen to be in the market for a stamp book, you can find them at many temples and shrines. The stamp books available at Ninna-ji can be seen in the picture above.
Stamp books for the purpose of collecting stamps at shrines and temples are usually not bound like normal books. Between the front and back covers there is a long piece of paper that is folded like an accordion. The folds demarcate the individual pages. Take a look around the next time you visit a temple, you might see a stamp book to start collecting stamps in! If you can’t find them, you can ask for them in Japanese: the word for the stamp book is “goshuinchō” (said “go-shoe-in-cho”) (御集印帳 or 御朱印帳) to ask for the stamp, just leave off the “cho.”
When you enter Goten, usually there is a beautiful gold folding screen to your left, but yesterday it was moved temporarily for some repairs to the wall behind it. Goten is approaching 100 years old, upkeep of the building is very important! I thought that the walls were the same as those in old Japanese houses, but it turns out that someone trained in repairs for residences is not sufficiently trained for working on walls like those in the palace area. The man pictured above is a specialist in repairing walls in temples and shrines.