Portals to Heaven

Leanne Ogasawara in Entropy:

Byodin Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Like a giant bird with nimble wings outstretched to catch the wind, the vermilion temple seemed to hover just above the surface of the water. I had never seen anything like it. The gilded statue of the celestial Buddha was partially hidden behind wooden grillwork, but I could still make out Amida Buddha’s half-opened eyes, beckoning us.

It was a steaming hot day in Kyoto, in 1992. My boyfriend Tetsuya and I had arrived at Byodoin Temple late in the afternoon–in maximum heat and maximum humidity.

On the train, he had explained how the temple had started off nine-hundred years ago, as a villa for Fujiwara Michinaga, one of the most powerful men in Japan at the time. By the late tenth century, it had become a custom for Japanese emperors to marry a Fujiwara daughter. And through these advantageous marriages, not to mention a strong dose of political intriguing, the Fujiwara family’s power became second only to that of the imperial family.

More here.