After breakfast, we left at 10 am to take the train from Himeji station to Nara. We left at 11:12 and changed at Osaka to go to Nara Station. I was surprised at how easy it was to navigate arround! Everything is written in English as well as Japanese which made things very simple and we arrived without a hitch!
Upon arrival we immediately met up with Akemi-sensei and the other people whose train had arrived at the same time as ours and we proceeded to fill in our JR rail passes. As we left the station, two monks were waiting for us to drive to Yakushiji Temple!!! I must say I am really honoured to be a part of this trip. Not many people get to live in a Buddhist temple and follow in their daily deeds!
After 10 minutes drive, we arrive at the temple. It’s beautiful! We then went in the dining room to introduce ourselves and had bitter green tea after eating a sweet (for which I don’t know the names unfortunately…)
Later, a monk gave us a tour of the Temple grounds and showed us the building where the monks pray. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed so I will do my best to describe it : in the centre of the building is a giant copper statue of Buddha. It is called Yakushi Niorai. Yaku means Medicine, Shi means Master/Doctor and Niorai means Buddha. Next to this “Doctor” are two “nurses” on either side. On the right is the sun nurse and the left is the moon nurse (which is now at Nara Museum) thus ensuring health and peace of mind all day and all night to those around him. And so the monks sacrifice incense and chant the sutras to call for his help.
By the time we had finished, it was nearly 5 pm and so the monk gave us the opportunity to ring the temple bell. It has to be rung every morning at 5 am and every evening at 5 pm 5 times only. So Tom, Angela, North, Ryouta and I each rang the bell once! It was a really nice experience! Here are a couple pictures.
After resting a bit in our rooms, we set out to prepare dinner and ate at 6 pm. Everything is very ordered and the bowls and plates must be set out in a specific order. When we finished our meal. We take one slice of takowan, a kind of yellow radish, and use it to wipe the bowls clean with a bit of water and then pour into the next bowl in a specific order. Then we drink the final water mixture. Nothing must be wasted! Then we all tidy up and clean the dishes.
We all went back to our rooms and later had a meeting with a Buddhist scholar, who made us read some of the proverbs he wrote during his life and taught us their meanings. One for example read : yokukiite yokukangaete soshite doryoku, which teaches us to first listen to other people’s opinions, then to think and finally only then can you express yourself (much like the English expression “think before you speak”!)
We then went back to our rooms and played for a bit with Ryouta-kun, counting money and playing Uno. After that, we each laid our beds and went to sleep on the tatami floor.