After a wonderful meal and with our tummies filled, we continued our walk through a series of steps into another temple. However, the group of temples here now came under one of Japan’s most famous temples, Todai-ji. There were several temples clustered together. A few worshippers had gathered in this spacious temple ground, the Sangatsu- dō. A priest, with his mind pre- occupied, walked past us without any acknowledgment. Sangatsu-dō is the oldest temple in the Todai-ji group of temples. This shrine is sometimes referred as Hokke-do, “Hall of the Third Month”. The architecture of the tile roofed structures was quite impressive.
Nigatsu- dō Temple
Next to this cluster of buildings, a steep series of stone steps ascended to the popular Nigatsu- dō temple, “The Hall of the Second Month”. It was founded in 752. Sited on the hillside of Mount Wakakusa, the balcony presented a commanding view of the sprawling city.
The main hall is over 350 years old and the beautiful architecture reflected old Nara designs. Over-sized oval shaped paper lanterns hung along the courtyard hang from the ceilings. Framed pictures and art hung above the doors. At the end of the spacious cobble stone courtyard, surrounded by tall trees and vegetation, worshipers cleansed their bodies at a dragon water fountain with the bamboo ladles provided.
Under a row of bronze lantern hung above, the expansive views of Nara, from this elevated position, are visible. Both, the old and new buildings existed side by side in a densely planted city. At a closer proximity, is Todai-ji’s widespread temple complexes incorporated within Nara Park. There was an air of serenity. Everyone on this balcony looked out contemplating their own lives, young and old. Incense fumes filled the still air and worshipers prayed with clasped hands against their chest. They bowed several times in reverence.
Occasionally, a bell was rung using a multi- coloured cloth hanging from the ceiling. Statues of the Buddha were placed inside the rather poorly illuminated hall. Silhouettes of people moved quietly, both with respect and consideration. Tiny flames from lamps flickered in the light breeze.
Around the corner, the space opened up to a small internal courtyard. The floor was paved with granite stones and miniature plants sprouted from a rock garden. More oversized paper lanterns hung along a corridor. Nearby, a tea house was busy as steam from hot tea rose towards the ceiling. It was cozy and atmospheric. The interior was dark with strands of light streaming through a few open windows.
We walked out of the complex by descending a steep covered step. This led us to a picturesque and delightful narrow concrete pathway through local homes.