I believe many of us have wondered what we will leave behind after we depart this earthly life. Japan actually gave me the chance to send a brief message into the future.
The scene of my story is Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, where I travelled in 2013 as a graduation gift from my friends. Each year thousands of tourists visit the city to glimpse into Japan’s magnificent past.
Nara is home to many world famous monuments, memorials, and sacred sites. One of the most beautiful and holiest places is the Kofukuji Temple, built by the Fujiwara clan, the most powerful family during much of the Nara and Heian Periods. The temple was established at the same time as the capital in 710. At the height of Fujiwara power, the temple consisted of over 150 buildings. Today a couple of buildings of great historic value remain, including a five-storied pagoda and a three-storied pagoda. At 50 meters, the five-storied pagoda is the second tallest historical structure in Japan. Another spectacular feature is the large wooden statue of the Yakushi Buddha that became one of the main attractions in Nara.
In the temple park Japanese shika deer are freely roaming around. They are so used to humans that they are unfazed by them and even let visitors to pet them. Legend says that deer were once Buddha’s favorite animals, so the authorities and local residents live in peaceful co-existence with them.
But be warned - if visitors are brave enough to buy "deer-crackers" (鹿煎餅 Shika-senbei) from local vendors to feed the creatures, they should brace themselves because in a second these cute little Bambis can turn into bloodthirsty monsters that inflict rather painful bites on the unsuspecting people around them.
And even though the temple was set on fire and burned down repeatedly in the course of history, it was always renovated. Even today, some of the buildings are under restoration. The Central Golden Hall (東金堂) is presently being reconstructed and scheduled to be completed in October 2018. The project requires a huge amount of funding, but not even the government has enough money to cover it all.
So, the Buddhist monks of the temple have come up with a unique and clever way of raising money. Instead of begging, they “sell” roofing tiles and pieces of flooring in the temple’s gift shops. People may “buy” these items and write personal messages, wishes, and pearls of wisdom on one side of them, using a traditional brush and ink. These personalized components will be built into the structure during the renovation process. This way, tourists get to support the renovation of this ancient and wonderful place, and at the same time they can also become part of history by sending “messages” with their dreams, wishes, desires, and words of advice to future generations.
With two exceptions I took these photos. The sources of the photos used: