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Buddhist Kittens

July 5th, 2004

On a recent trip up into the local hills, I wandered on to the grounds of a Buddhist temple. That’s where they tend to be, on the outskirts and often on the high ground (though the Shinto shrines then to be on hilltops more often). You can find temples and shrines just about anywhere in Japan, from the pocket shrines set into tiny spaces between buildings in the city to sprawling establishments almost like parks in their own right.

While up in the hills, I found an interesting place–more than just the standard temple building with perhaps a bell outside (the kind they strike 108 times at New Year’s). This place was more of a modern-style temple, a bit flashier than most, perhaps belonging to a newer sect than most (they have quite a few here, some of them even a bit outlandish). This one, as you can see below, had a newish-looking, clean white structure with an alcove housing a rather attractive gold Buddha, with black calligraphic text behind it.

The temple also had cats. I guess they feed the strays or something. As there are few children around and probably just nice, charitable temple staff to feed them, they aren’t too shy or skittish; the one kitten well on its way to becoming a full-fledged cat, pictured below, walked right up to me. In fact, because of the time it takes my camera to power up, I missed by maybe 5 seconds a beautiful photo: one of the many crows in the area happened to land just a foot away from the small cat, and for several seconds, they just stood there, looking at each other, like “what are you gonna do?” Maybe it’s the local version of the lion and the lambs. Man, I wished I could’ve gotten that shot.

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