I arrived at Sugimotodera Temple just after four o’clock, after a long afternoon of being lost. My map was stretched to fit the dimensions of the page on which it was printed, and so northbound streets slanted west, and the map’s roman alphabet transcriptions of road names meant nothing next to the Japanese street signs. I was actually aiming for Hokokuji (not, as it turns out from subsequent days’ explorations, too far away), but I came upon Sugimotodera first and stopped, transfixed by that light.
I was lucky the monk let me in; it was late in the day for Japanese temples. Most close around four or four-thirty. But I’d been walking such an awfully long time by that point, and I suppose it showed.
By the time I arrived, the temple had emptied of anyone who’d visited earlier in the day, and I was here in this space by myself. Striking, how quiet and bright it was on the hillside after the busy grey streets. How the air cleansed. I stayed until the border of my welcome, drinking in this yellow light, these white banners, which in my foreign eyes turn to pattern and shape. It is so liberating to be freed of text.
The stairs here are cobbled and worn by footsteps. They slant and waver, tilt into themselves and tumble together.
The wooden temple glows in the afternoon light, the warm boards coppered and golden. Under dense roof thatching, it stands on its slender stilts, this steady scaffolding.