Houkokuji Temple: Princess Kaguya

In my last post, I introduced some recommended temples, shrines and tourist attractions in Kamakura (which if you’d like to read, you can here!). I mentioned that Houkokuji Temple was quite special to me, and this is why.

The following would probably be best described as an anecdote which I can’t quite seem to shake off.


 

I can’t help but think after precious moments like these that, some things are meant to remain in our memories for a very long time.

My friend and I had just finished taking photographs in the small bamboo grove that we planned to circle for the second time (because, well, we couldn’t get enough of its beauty). I slung my camera on my left shoulder along with my unnecessarily heavy rucksack which I seriously regretted bringing with me that day, and we began to walk back towards the entrance to the small wood.

As I looked towards the light streaming past the bamboo canes, I lowered my gaze to the shaded area which the bamboo trees began, when something small and pink caught my eye. It was a girl. She was probably about three, and had somehow managed to wander into the forest alone.

It wasn’t long before her seemingly angry parents noticed and called for her to return to them, but in those few moments I was overflown with such nostalgia that I couldn’t help but be fixated.

Flashes of pictures from Studio Ghibli’s 「かぐや姫の物語 」(Kaguya-hime no Monogatari) appeared in my mind; beautiful streaks of watercolour and traditional Japanese-inspired brushstrokes. The scene before me was stripped into a simple drawing with dashes of green and the girl’s pink figure was replaced by the similar-looking main character, Kaguya-hime, as a child.

e7a2b1b8481d7edc6583df5febf2210cKaguya-hime no Monogatari, meaning The Story of Princess Kaguya (also known as The Legend of the Bamboo Cutter), is an extremely well-known legendary folk tale in Japan, which is also considered to be the oldest known Japanese prose narrative. Studio Ghibli presents the story a little differently to the original, but it is wonderful.

Centred around Kaguya-hime, the mysterious protagonist who was found by a bamboo cutter in a glowing bamboo stalk, her life quickly unfolds in a series of wonderfully illustrated scenes. She encounters love, but also sadness; the narrative is compelling, with many implicit denotations that possess such rawness and beauty. There’s just no way my explanation can do the story or movie justice! If you haven’t seen it already, please do.

The music is also so beautiful, just like every other Studio Ghibli movie. Here‘s a link to the theme song, 「命の記憶」(Inochi no Kioku), directly translated as ‘Memories of life’.

When I saw the girl, after the scene had transformed into a series of watercolour illustrations, this music started playing in my head. And I just can’t seem to forget it.

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