Schlagwort-Archiv: Nara

Nara, 11 August 1893

Today we started with a visit to the Imperial treasury which strangely is not located in Tokyo but here instead. The Mikado is said to usually keep the key to it in his own hands. What one might usually consider a treasure room, namely a fire and theft resistant room in which valuables, especially jewels and gems, are kept, nothing like this can be found here. We just see a wooden barn-like building standing on poles, that totally reminds me of the „hay barns“ in the wet meadows of Pinzgau and Pongau. Within this building whose purpose is more characteristic of a museum are objects of sometimes important historic and artistic value in closets. Here there are masks, brocade and silk dresses that were once used for ceremonies, furthermore swords, arrows, bows and gorgeous saddlery, then objects of daily life such as mirrors, spoons, full cutlery sets, finally jewels made out of nephrite, bringer of luck, and besides many other things, incredibly valuable Kakemonos.

Not far from the treasury is the greatest peculiarity of Nara, that is the colossal statue of Amitabha (Nara-no-daibutsu, that is the great Buddha) in the Todai-ji, zu sehen. This temple was built by Shomu-Tenno, the 46th Mikado, and completed in 750 but has a newer different form now after repeated destructions by fire. The exterior relations of the building we could not fully see as they were just making repairs for which they had erected scaffolds at the facade. The temple hall into which the visitor enters without having to remove the shoes contains the colossal statue of Buddha that surprises by its giant dimensions, an imposing proof of the Japanese skill in terms of metallurgy. The statue is the largest Buddha representation in the country at a height of 162 m and shows Buddha sitting on an open lotus flower that has been produced out of 500 t of copper-rich bronze at a width of about 2 cm. On the leaves one can still recognize the signs of engraved figures of gods. Behind the head that seems to be darker colored than the rest rises a glittering gilded wooden halo whose rays branch out far in all directions and on which six statues of Buddhist saints are balancing. To the right of the Buddha statue is one of a holy being, Kokuso Bosatsu, to the left one of the almighty Kwan-on, both 5,5 m high and nevertheless tiny in comparison to the huge Buddha. The latter had been strongly gilded too at the beginning but this decoration has been lost during its turbulent existence.

Lke the temple the Daibutsu itself owes its existence to Shomu-Tenno, who had the creation of the statue under his personal direction only undertaken after an oracle of the consulted sun goddess Amaterasu and a dream about this had calmed him that the other gods would not be jealous about the planned honoring of Buddha. In the year 749 the work was completed which is more remarkable for its height than its artistic value. About  a bit more than 100 years later the poor Buddha lost its head but received a new one a short time afterwards. A fire in 1180 melted the head and it was replaced again 15 years later only to perish once more in the fire of 1567. A private person then helped Buddha to replace his head again so that the god has since been in complete command of his more than 1100 year old body. The more than 300 year old head looks out into the world with a happy smile without having lost his good mood that he had been exposed to the full rigors of the weather for more than one and a half centuries after the last fire.

A thick dust layer covered the image which we pointed out to the senior priest who replied that this was due to the pilgrims that carried in the dust but at least declared that the god would be better kept clean in the future. This would improve all of the temple space in my view as the room was really completely deprived of its religious character.

In the temple there is a formal exhibition of the interesting objects that are presented in closets and constitute, in part, the treasure. All kinds of wooden images of the gods, valuable reliquaries, music instruments, weapons and armor, masks, ancient manuscripts and maps in scrolls etc. can be seen in a colorful variety. Merchants from Nara had assembled here in the safe presumption that I would be willing to buy various objects, so that under Buddha’s eyes a vivid trade soon developed that was continued on the exterior of the temple at the nearby shops that contained many artistic objects.

We did not miss to pay a visit to the huge bell that had been cast in 732 out of 36 t of metal that hangs in a massive tower and is a part of Todai-ji. The mammoth that is similar to the one in the Chion temple in Kyoto was beat in our honor with the bobbin and is distinguished by the purity of the deep clanging sound.

In the holy grove that has made Nara in part famous rises in the shadow of ancient Japanese cedars and cypresses one temple after the next with extended associated buildings. A pleasing silence reigns in the area of the dignified tree giants but that is not due to the earnestness of the matching style in the grove but instead it exudes an air of friendliness and hilarity.  As everywhere the light colors of the temples pierces the leaves. The temples are the opposite of dark houses of prayer. The rare understanding of the building artists for the correct location of their works is proved by the charming views upon the lovely landscape.

Shedding many drops of sweat we climbed countless steps of a long stone star to a temple situated at the highest level called Ni-gwatsu-do or temple of the second month that seems to stick to the hill on which it had been built as it seems to rise out on its poles from the hill. Built already in 751, the current building dates only back 200 years and contains an image of wonder of the goddess Kwan-on, which is said to have exuded warmth like a living body when it was found. A confusing number of metal votive lanterns hang in front of the temple and produces a strange attraction to the building.

Now we wandered in the avenues of the varied small votive temples that border the path under high dark trees and arrived at the Shinto sanctuary in red and white color called San-gwatsu-do or temple of the third month whose priests always clad in white greeted us. Currently quite desolate, this temple is remarkable by a row of original small side temples dedicated to Inari. As a quality that deserves to be mentioned is that in this holy grove priests of various cults act peacefully side by side sot that they imitate the very good understanding in which numerous gods live together in harmony.

We quickly used a break during the visit of the temple to buy sword guards whose fabrications once was very famous and had produced many master pieces of invaluable quality.

Thousands of votive pillars encase the path that the djinn rickshaws took to the other temples. The pillars resemble one another almost completely Due to their age they are mostly covered in moss and hold the name of the donor on the base and contain space in the upper part under a stone roof for the placement of a lantern. Often these marks of faith are grouped in four to five rows one behind the other and only rarely alternate with a beautiful bronze figure one of which especially caught my eye as it showed a water-spewing deer at natural size and in a very elegantly formed lines.

At a Shinto sanctuary called Kasuga-no-mija we stopped. This building rises in noble proportions and produces a very vivid effect by its gleaming red bizarrely formed metal votive lanterns whose numbers nobody has yet counted and that are in a captivating contrast to the calm green of the majestic Japanese cedars. Impressive is the rich temple treasure assembled over centuries as this Kami hall reaches back to the distant past as it is said to have been built already in 767. It is dedicated to the ancestor of the house of Fujiwara, the Shinto god Ama-no-kojane and his wife as well as two mythical creatures.

At the end of an avenue bordered by more than 3000 stone and bronze lanterns lies the Waka temple dedicated to the son of Ama-no-kojane in which an ancient dance called Kagura was performed in our honor by three priests with flutes and drums, supported by a matron who played a Koto while lying down, who produced the orchestral music. The youthful female dancers who had been especially educated for these ritual performances wore wide red pants, white overcoats and gaze-like coats. The black hair hung freely down the back , only loosely held together by a golden thread, a crest of artificial flowers decorated the front, the face was defaced by thick paint in white, the lips were glittering in a flashy red. The dance consisted of  rhythmic steps forwards and backwards. The girls accompanied this graceful swaying soon with tree twigs soon by small bells or fans but still made an impression of mechanically moving figures.

During the dinner in the clubhouse a highly skilled juggler put on a performance which ended with some clown sketches enacted in conjunction with some companions in which the Japanese version of the „dumb Auguste“ was not missing.

In the afternoon we started our return trip to Kyoto. In Osaka the nearly one hour journey from the station at Minatoku to that of Umeda offered plenty of opportunities for the huge crowds that were intent of seeing the Western strangers.

At 8 o’clock in the evening we returned to Kyoto and found our long path to our journey blocked by a densely packed crowd and festively illuminated by lampions as during our first arrival in the city.


  • Location: Kyoto, Japan
  • ANNO – on 11.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Hugenotten“.

Kyoto to Osaka, 10 August 1893

Today’s program included an excursion first to Osaka and then to Nara. The train therefore took us towards that city on the same line that we had already used on our journey to Kyoto although at night. We rushed through a lovely green landscape where numerous sweep wells and treadwheels to irrigate the area rise as a strange accessories. Small bamboo forests interrupt in an agreeable way the monotony of the rice paddies extending very far. Repeatedly the train dashes over the nearly dry trickles of streams and small rivers an finally the bed of Kanzaki-gawa and also Jodo-gawa.

From the far distance Osaka, a city of more than 473.000 inhabitants, announces its character as an industry and trade center by the in no way picturesque view of numerous factories with smocking stacks. The first building that we passed was a brewery operated by steam that satisfied both the thirst and the industrial pride of the inhabitants of Osaka.

My strong request to keep my excursion Incognito as much as possible was granted but it only consisted that the police no longer saluted in front of me while everything else stayed the same. Thus we found here again a festive reception at the station, the presentation of high dignitaries, a triumphal entrance into the city through a cordon of curious spectators. I had declined with thanks to see the originally planned revue of the toal garrison troops of Osaka, quite to the disappointment of the commanding general, an old lieutenant general to whom I confirmed a visit to the castle and the arsenal instead.

Four court carriages brought us quickly first to the castle that is on the left bank of the Jodo-gawa in the East of the city that is not rarely called the Venice of Japan. This comparison is only valid in terms that in the Southern part of Osaka re numerous canals of filthy water that branch off from Jodo-gawa.

At the entrance to the fort the lieutenant general received me at the head of the officer corps and accompanied me into a service building where he presented me with photographs and sketches of the fortress after a long speech and offered refreshments. The castle resembles in its construction and fortification those of Kumamoto and represents a huge installation, although of smaller dimension, of an enclosing wall made out of colossal granite blocks that was 5 to 7 m wide and up to 12 m long and had a deep water-filled double moat. How they managed to move and pile up the giant granite blocks with the technical means available during the time of construction of the castle seems nearly unthinkable. It is remarkable that the walls of the escarpe and that of the contre-escarpe are not straight or at an angle but laid out in a curve. On top of the walls rise the peculiar towers of Japanese fortifications with their curved pagoda roofs. But their number is very small as most had in time become victim of the fires. Overall, the castle has turned into a ruin and also the palace within the second enclosed wall, apparently once the most splendid building of Japan, was consumed by flames in 1868. The ruins still look impressive today and tell the proud history of this fortress in a silent but haunting language. The castle was the key to the capital of Kyoto during those turbulent times and played an important role at decisive events in the history of Japan and is associated with the most illustrious names of the country.

Where today rise the debris of Osaka castle once there stood a very famous Buddhist monastery of the Shin sect that was destroyed in 1571 by the order of Nobunaga who had become one of the most powerful feudal lords thanks to the fortune of war and his bravery so that he was tasked by the Mikado to pacify the land and could dare to chase away shoguns or appoint them. Church history glorifies him as he protected Christians while he persecuted the depraved Buddhist priests who opposed his audacious plans. The order to destroy the monastery of Osaka is reinforced by Nobunaga’s words: „These bonzes never obeyed my orders but always supported the bad guys an resisted the Imperial army. If I do not remove it now, this misery will go on forever. Furthermore I have heard that these priests have ignored their own rules: They eat fish and bad herbs, have concubines and roll up the holy scripts instead of reading them and pray. How could they be the guardians against the bad and the keepers of justice?“ Then fire and sword performed their duties. A short time later the Taiko-sama had Osaka castle built in the spot of the destroyed monastery and had it reinforced a few years later. For that purpose apparently 17.000 houses were leveled.

In connection with the persecution of the Christians, Osaka became a place of refuge for Christianity and other malcontents and was besieged and conquered already in 1615 by Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, and his son Hidetada. During the downfall of the feudal system in Japan and the restitution of the rule of the Mikado it was left to Osaka to witness the decline of the Tokugawa shogunate as it had seen the foundation and rise of its reign. Here the last shogun from this family took up his position in 1868 but could not hold neither castle nor city and had to flee on an American ship. In the flames that consumed the castle the shogunate and with it the old feudal system perished too.

At the place of great historical memories there is now a peaceful work being built, a large reservoir that is to supply the city with fresh water. The view from the heights of the castle upon the city and its surrounding is gorgeous. In the far distance one could see the large steamers move across the inland sea.

Even though the visit to the arsenal was a bit arduous due to the oppressive heat, I still did not regret it as it offered me an opportunity to verify personally the high state of the Japanese arms industry. The short time during which Japan has managed to gain the knowledge about all the respective European installation is almost a miracle. In the arsenal they were just working on a number of guns, namely 7 cm mountain artillery to up to 40 cm fortress guns intended for newly constructed forts. As the government is diligently prepared to protect every suitable point at the coast, each passage, every ledge and every peninsula with forts and then arm them soundly. The arsenal is equipped with machines of the most modern construction so that gun barrels that arrive in a raw state from the foundry are within a short time completed and adjusted. In multiple extensive halls the gun production is active in a grand style. Naturally the associated secondary installations are not missing, thus a shop to repair rifles, a carpenter’s, a wainwright’s and a saddler’s shop for the production of carriages, ammunition wagons and the tacks for the artillery. In the saddler’s shop I examined all the types of leather used as well as the production of saddles as well as saddle blankets. Here too I found the latter to be much too thin and the saddles not built as robust as required for the permanent wear and tear they are exposed to at home. The arsenal currently already produces goods for export. Thus just a few mountain artillery pieces were produced for the Portuguese government.

After the visit to the arsenal followed an opulent breakfast in the officer’s club which was also attended by the generals and the governor. The building of the club is in its exterior of European but in the interior of  Japanese character which is enhanced by a small but interesting collection of art-industrial objects. Large ice blocks in bronze vases apparently from the heights of Fujiyama  provided agreeable coolness. At the breakfast the governor produced vivid hilarity. He assured me that his doctor had forbidden him to drink sake given his unsound state of health, but saw no objection to the consumption of cognac and consumed it with vehemence.

Finally it was time to go and take the railway from Minato-cho Station to Nara. The railway line crosses a plain cultivated everywhere with rice paddies and rich in streams, later hilly terrain. First in a South-eastern direction across the province of Kawachi, which like the province of Yamato whose capital Nara is are also part of the five core provinces. Then it continues in front of Uji Station over the mountain range which forms the border between the mentioned provinces and reaches in a North-eastern arc the city of Nara. Before we arrived there we made a stop at Horyuji to visit a temple at a distance of half an hour from there.

Moving in djinn rickshaws we soon saw the temple or more precisely the houses of a conglomerate of temple buildings that looked like a small city and were united in picturesque groups in a lovely grove and connected by paths and stairs that are decorated with small chapels and bronze vessels.

During our tour we walked past gates everywhere  that are protected by threatening grotesque guards in black and in red colors. The temple had been founded by Shotoku-daishi and completed in 607. It is thus the oldest surviving Buddhist temple whose rich art treasures are supported not only by the government but also a dedicated society to support the maintenance and conservation of the temple with notable contributions.

The hall of dreams, Yume-dono, an octogonal building, is dedicated to the goddess Kwan-on whose 600 year old image hangs beside an image of the 1100 year old face of Shotoku-daishi. In the right wing of a large building behind it that is ornamented by wall paintings that in part date from 1069 a reliquary is kept of the iris of the pupil od Buddha’s left eye whose view believers can look at always at noon. In the left wing there is an image of the goddess Kwan-on who is asked for assistance against evil dreams. The main temple, surrounded by a rectangular wall, contains a number of paintings, of Buddha and other gods of which three had been installed in 1231 as a replacement of three stolen statues.

A bronze statue of Yakushi Nyorai, that is the healing Buddha, and a wooden figure of Fugen, the especially divine patron of those who devote themselves to ecstatic views, are said to have been brought by a priest called Zemui from India. Two other images, among them one of the goddess Kwan-on is said to be of Indian origin. As treasures of the highest value appear the wall paintings that show all kinds of Buddhist reproaches and are assigned to the artist Tori Busshi as well as a Korean priest and have a great importance in Japanese art history. The old age of these works is beyond doubt and the style as well as the perfect execution that was not matched by any known Japanese artist point to a Korean origin.

In the temple building dedicated to Yakushi Njorai, a view of the strangest and surprising kind is presented as the walls are covered by thousands and thousands of swords, knives, arrows, bows, in one word with weapons of all kind that men have offered while mirrors and hair has been sacrificed by women as devotionals. But also other objects of all kinds have been given to the god out of gratitude for the mercy shown. Not missing are drills as a symbol for a restored sense of hearing. What would our ear specialists think about these instruments and the unmade deafness?

Colossal god statues distinguish the temple of Kami-no-do; in this temple we view the images of Shakyamuni (Buddha), of Monchu, a personification of supernatural knowledge, of Fugen and Shi-Tenno, one of the four kings in heaven who defend the world against demons. Furthermore a group is displayed that symbolises the death of Buddha and images of the eight scenes from Buddha’s life, beginning with his birth in heaven and ending with his entrance into nirvana. One of the colossal statues shows a notable close similarity to our common representation of the Archangel Michael who defends himself with a lance against the evil enemy.

A dark long winded hall that at first gave the impression of a prop storage room of a theater contains the temple treasure that is said, in my opinion justly, to be of exceptionally high value. Here there are splendid truly invaluable tapestry-like embroideries, figures and all kinds of other objects made out of wood and bronze, masks, swords, giant drums, gongs etc. In a row of closets that are locked off there must be further valuables that are kept out of sight from  profane viewers. At the end of the tour the bonzes offered us refreshments that we gladly accepted and then drove quickly to the station where the train took us to Nara.

This city built at the foot of a well wooded mountain range can claim the glory of being one of the oldest settlements in the country but is but a shadow of its former self. Once Nara had even been the center of the empire until the Emperor Kwammu moved his residence to Kyoto. After a half hour drive in rickshaws through the main avenue of Nara and a long avenue bordered by hundred year old Japanese cedars and cypresses we arrived at a club house in the middle of a temple grove called Kosugano-yashiroe which would serve as our residence.

The loveliness of the view of the scenery is enlivened in a graceful way by the numerous holy deer that are tamely mingling between the rickshaws and pedestrians and graze without fear. These deer (Cervus schika), that are said to be cared for a thousand years, are stronger and stockier than the spotted deer but otherwise quite similar. It seems to me that the number of deer with antlers but not more than eight points were outnumbering the other animals. The big game is under special protection so that earlier the death penalty was enforced for killing a piece. Feeding always takes place close to the temple with the consequence that the game is so tame that it accepts to be fed out of the hands of everybody.

Our quarter was a very charming residence. From my room on the first floor I had a view on the dark temple grove out of whose sea of leaves now here and then one could see the top of a pagoda or the roof of a temple and in the background the green hill slopes so that one imagines to be far from a urban community. The magic of the landscape and the absolute quietness of this piece on Earth is said to have pleased the Empress of Japan who enjoyed her visits to Nara and also stayed and held court in the comfortable club house in the same rooms that I was occupying as Nara lacks an Imperial palace.

As the advanced hour prevented a visit of Nara’s sights I wandered around in the temple grove to feed the deer so that I was soon surrounded by about 60 pieces. The tame animals pestered me formally, sniffed my pockets and would not relent until I had handed out some treats whereas one especially brash stag tried to advance his demands by the use of its antlers.

After the dinner in the club house there was arranged an original production of dancers, mimes and actors in a meadow in front of the veranda illuminated by mighty flickering  pinewood flames. The spectacle was opened by a warrior in a rich costume who performed an ancient Chinese dance, Gwan-so-raku, that means Joy of the Ancestors where the artists with a horrible face mask turned around a coiled snake in front of him, threatening it with weapons and finally strangling it. While it is already difficult in our ballets at home to add a choreographic plot that made some sort of sense, this was completely impossible here until it was explained that in the far West there lived barbarians who ate snakes and that the dance under the image of the dead snake was a symbolic illustration of the victory of the Emperor over his enemies and the joy about the victorious return of their master. More interest than the performance attracted the old brocade cloths in which the warrior was clad.

The first performed dance called Kaden was more like a clown art number than a choreographic work as two artists wearing hideous lion masks imitated the movements of two lions in which, by the way, they were quite skilled. This dance is said to have been composed more than 1000 years ago upon the order of the 54th Mikado, Ninmyo Tenno, by Fujiwara Sadotoshi.

The now following presentation accompanied by singing was based on a legend that was similar to the temptation of St. Anthony. The goddess Miwa transformed herself into a woman to seduce a god-fearing Buddhist priest called Gwanpin who is said to have lived 1100 years ago. Miwa creates delicate and difficult situations for him but after a long struggle the priest emerges victorious. At first the performance starts out very funny due to the strange plot and the art of presentation but then it becomes quite monotonous as the spurned pseudo goddess cries and wails without end and the steadfast servant of Buddha keeps swearing while squatting in one corner of the improvised stage.

At the end the actors played a farce with the idea that a magic cap that turned its wearer invisible. A boy who was beaten too much by his boss flees into a Buddhist temple in Kyoto and asks for help which is given in a very practical manner in regard to the circumstances by handing him the magic cap. The boss is now no longer able to find the boy and asks a bonze to track him down which naturally does not happen. To the joy of the boy, the farce ends with the boss and the bonze hitting each other.

Noh dances are the name of productions where monotonous music that is not conforming to our ours made by a harmonica, Sho, a mortar-like instrument beat with a hammer, Kokin, that replaces the bass and a bamboo clarinet, Fudsche, as well as a zither played laying down, Koto.


  • Location: Nara, Japan
  • ANNO – on 10.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Ein Tanzmärchen“.