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  2. Listen with your mind’s eye 〜SOUND TRIP〜【Act One】Sanzen-in Temple

Listen with your mind’s eye 〜SOUND TRIP〜【Act One】Sanzen-in Temple

Listen with your mind’s eye 〜SOUND TRIP〜【Act One】Sanzen-in Temple

Content Partner

The 'My second hometown' project, through the free magazine Enjoy Kyoto and its affiliated website, is aimed at showing foreign visitors the deeper charms of this amazing city.

Content Partner

The 'My second hometown' project, through the free magazine Enjoy Kyoto and its affiliated website, is aimed at showing foreign visitors the deeper charms of this amazing city.

A soundtrack to a three-act pilgrimage of your soul

The thousand-year capital, Kyoto—an ancient city ruled by a host of gods where countless Buddhas have bequeathed teachings, its rich narratives woven from infinite threads of elegant aristocratic picture scrolls, the rise and fall of the samurai, and humble prayers of the townsfolk.
These narratives have played out on the stages of Kyoto’s temples and shrines, and now SOUND TRIP unfurls at some of the most famed—Sanzen-in Temple, Mibu-dera Temple, and Kifune-jinja Shrine. When you visit any of these three locations, seat yourself in a specially provided booth, slip on headphones and shut out the world around you. Turn your ear to the sound washing through you. You feel giddy and little by little your senses blur. Reality slowly merges with images and memories stored within you, and you begin to hear the music with your mind’s eye. Could this be some sort of enlightenment? Could that sound you hear through the headphones, ringing so very quietly deep down inside, be your own voice? SOUND TRIP is about creating music with a story. You’re on a pilgrimage to your soul, and this is the soundtrack.

How to use SOUND TRIP

  1. Seat yourself in the special-purpose SOUND TRIP booth at a participating temple or shrine.
  2. Drop a donation in the designated box (300 yen)
  3. Slip on the headphones and press play
  4. Trip on the sound and the scenery before you

【Act One】Sanzen-in Temple

Give praise to Buddha, offer a prayer —A Buddhist hymn in a soothing forest

Nature and chant resonate to visualize “three thousand realms in a single moment”

Sanzen-in Temple is something of a travelling temple. It has relocated numerous times since it was founded in 860, with stints in Sakamoto at the foot of Mt. Hiei-zan and the Murasakino precinct of Kyoto before settling in its present location in Ohara during the Meiji era (1868-1912).
The name of Sanzen-in Temple is derived from “ichinen sanzen”, a principle of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. The principle says that three thousand realms (in other words, everything) are present in the movement of the mind each instant. Put differently, there are three thousand realms in each of our minds, and every one of their movements and expressions is different. Let’s reframe this through a modern-day lens. Through social media we witness the multifarity of human opinion—no one thing can elicit identical emotions in any two people. It’s as if this Buddhist principle for which Sanzen-in Temple is named foresaw the arrival of our modern social media society through words expressing that our minds possess realms.
Strolling through Sanzen-in Temple, one appreciates the meaning of this principle. The giant forest, the small moss breathing at the forest feet, the birdsong, the sound of water, the song of the wind, the whispering of the trees, and the subtle grin of Kannon, goddess of mercy reminding us of the joy of the Pure Land—a multitude of realms small and vast emanating from a single moment in one’s mind, all connected.
Ohara has historically been a place of rest and respite for women and soldiers fleeing war in the capital. One such figure was Kenreimon-in, the daughter of Heian era (794-1185) chancellor Taira no Kiyomori and consort of Emperor Takakura. She lived in seclusion here at Ohara after being expelled from Kyoto when the Taira warrior clan fell. Many other members of the Imperial family, aristocracy, samurai and literati despairing in the burden of this life also moved to the village of Ohara to live in hiding during the Heian and Kamakura (1185-1333) eras.
In addition, Ohara was an important station for traffic. The village flourished as a distribution hub on the Wakasa Kaido highway between Kyoto and Wakasa (a port of trade between Kyoto and the Korean Peninsula). In modern-day terms, Ohara was akin to a satellite city on a major transportation corridor with business travelers and cargo trucks constantly coming and going.
Above all, Ohara is the birthplace of Tendai shomyo (Buddhist chant) and the location of a chant hall built by the monk Ryonin, the founder of the Yuzu Nenbutsu sect. The song-like chanting of sutras is perhaps the Buddhist version of hymns, and setting them to beautiful music is said to have helped propagate Buddhist teachings among the common people. No doubt, the solemn voices reverberating through the chant hall have been a source of solace, salvation and peace for aristocrats, samurai and the masses alike for centuries.
There’s one other soothing presence in Ohara: Amida Buddha. In a turbulent age of famine, pestilence and war, a notion of mappo shiso, or “the latter day of the law”, pervaded popular thinking. Mappo means the end of Buddhist teachings, a disordered world, or, as it were, the end of the world. In those dark times, Amida Buddhism eased the minds of people searching for salvation in the afterlife. They embraced the faith and its undiscriminating ideology that promised Amida Buddha would welcome anyone who practiced chants to the Pure Land. Salvation was no longer the sole province of elite priests who had devoted themselves to training and achieved enlightenment.
We may draw many parallels between the medieval people and our own selves in these unsure times of pandemic, never-ending war and economic disparity. The democratic nature of Amida Buddhism that allayed the public’s fear of the onset of “the end” is not so far removed from the internet and social media in our own society in the way they give voice to the anonymous instead of the conversation being monopolized by one celebrity or superstar.
This village of Ohara that has brought serenity to souls for centuries is the ideal place to leave the clatter of everyday behind, to reflect, lend an ear to the voice inside, and clear a new path. A SOUND TRIP design Kyoto Ohara map is available at Sanzen-in Temple and other places in the Ohara area. Make the most of your time in the village by visiting some of its other attractions and experiencing more of the soothing sounds of Ohara.

Sanzen-in Temple Information

Sanzen-in Temple dates back to the Enryaku era (782 – 806). Its long history began in a hut that the father of Tendai Buddhism, Saicho, put up under a giant pear tree at Mt. Hiei-zan when building Enryaku-ji Temple. After numerous relocations including stints in Omi Sakamoto and various sites in Kyoto, the temple settled in Ohara during the Meiji era (1868-1912). Amida Triad statues in the Ojogokuraku-in hall are designated as National Treasures. The temple is also known for its warabe jizo (child-like Buddhist statues) in the moss garden.

Address: 540 Ohara raigoin-cho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto
Opening hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every day (8:30 am – 5:00 am in November, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm December to February)
Admission fee: General 700 yen, Junior high and high school students 400 yen, Elementary school students 150 yen
Enquiries: 075-744-2531
http://www.sanzenin.or.jp/en/

Shomyo by Yoshi Horikawa

-Music that can only be heard at Sanzen-in Temple

Ohara—the birthplace of Tendai shomyo(chant). Here at Sanzen-in Temple you can hear Shomyo, a composition that mixes Buddhist chant with the sounds of Ohara—chirping birds, a babbling river, and Otonashi-no-Taki, the waterfall into which generations of monks have practiced reciting their chants—in a musical collage based on themes of hope to enter the Pure Land and prayers for the future.

Lattice windows before you give the impression of rows and rows of dozens of tiny frames. Soft light and fresh breeze from an open window caress your skin. Beyond the windows is a beautiful garden where water, greenery, sky and sun melt into one. The scenery seems to play its own natural rhapsody.

Listening to Shomyo at Sanzen-in Temple, the temple named for ichinen sanzen, one is wrapped in a euphoric sense of meditating in a universe enveloping three thousand realms. It’s a rare experience of oscillating between feelings of rigid tension and weightless floating.

Artist: Yoshi Horikawa

Yoshi Horikawa is a sound creator who records sounds of the environment and daily life, which he transforms into his own unique brand of music. He debuted in 2010 on French label Eklektik Records with the EP Touch. His 2012 EP Wandering and his first album, Vapor, released in 2013, were selected as best album of the year by numerous media outlets. Touring the world with each new release, Horikawa has performed at many of the world’s major festivals including the Glastonbury Festival in the UK. As part of his extensive international career he has collaborated with architect Kengo Kuma, created music for radio and commercials, and designed sound systems.

Read more article on Partner’s site

The 'My second hometown' project, through the free magazine Enjoy Kyoto and its affiliated website, is aimed at showing foreign visitors the deeper charms of this amazing city.

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