Malaysian experiences a zen-like moment at a magical temple in Japan

The Sanjusangen-do Temple is popular with tourists. — Photos: CHIN POY SENG

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People travel leisurely to a place for a variety of reasons. For me, I travelled to the Kansai area in Japan because of a short story I read some years ago.

In the story, the author said that the statues in the Sanjusangen-do Temple were so real and overwhelming that he felt like he was transported to another world. I decided to check it out myself.

For independent travellers, buying the Osaka Amazing Pass in Malaysia in advance is advisable as it can help save some money and it is convenient. This pass not only enables us to take the subway or city bus, but it also provides discounts on tickets to numerous attractions like the Osaka Castle.

The Osaka Castle is a must-visit for travellers. The city panoramic view from the castle is simply wonderful.

We took the subway to go to the Shitennoji Temple. When we came out from the subway station, we were overwhelmed and got lost.

Luckily, one obasan (grandma or senior lady) kindly showed us the right way to the temple. People here are very helpful.

The Osaka Castle is worth visiting. The Osaka Castle is worth visiting.The Shitennoji Temple is the first Buddhist temple in Japan. A prince in the 6th century adopted Buddhism and invited carpenters from abroad to build the temple.

I think the highlight here is the five-storey pagoda, but it was closed for renovation during our visit.

If you’re a foodie, check out the Golden Dragon ramen at Dotonbori. It’s hard to miss the place as there is a huge dragon statue on top of the signage.

My wife happily stood by the kiosk and slurped her ramen. After the meal, she told me that it was the best ramen she ever had.

We also tried kaiseki, which is probably the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine. Kaiseki uses the freshest ingredients of the season, and it seeks to bring a balance of flavour, texture, and aesthetic appeal. Kyoto is the birthplace of kaiseki.

We experienced our multi-course kaiseki at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Osaka. It was delicious but my wife still insists that the ramen was tastier!

The highlight of the trip was of course our visit to Sanjusangen-do Temple. The name literally means a hall with 33 spaces between columns. The hall itself is about 120m long.

The crown jewel of this temple is the 1,001 statues of the Buddhist deity, the thousand-armed Kannon or Guan Yin in Chinese. A large Kannon statue is seated at the centre and is flanked by 500 standing Kannon statues on each side. There are also statues of the Thunder God and Wind God at either side of the temple hall. The statues, carved in the 12th and 13th century, were made from Japanese cypress.

Looking at the statues, I was overwhelmed by a sense of awe and serenity. More importantly, I think I know what the travel story was trying to convey: If you expand your vista with an open mind, you’ll see a different world unfolded. That is what travel all about, right?

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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