Here's a short interlude before we get to Big Buddha Temple!
If you ever go to Japan, make sure you get a souvenir book called shuensu for Japanese stamping or "stampu". If you go to certain tourist spots, you can use a rubber stamp and pad to stamp an image in your book; much like we collect pressed pennies here. The plain stamp-it-yourself images are free, but if you are in a temple or shrine you can donate 300 yen (about $3) to get a special calligraphy done. They are beautiful and each place is different. I ended up with 13 of the fancy ones and 2 books because we all had so much fun with it.
It is truly an art and it's fascinating to watch them do this. First someone (usually an assistant) will stamp some special images in red ink and then sometimes put the date in Kanji. Then the calligrapher will add special characters using black ink and a brush. I will post some photos below of some of my pages.
This is the first book I bought in Nara. The cover is handmade red paper with a corded binding at the top.
This book I bought in Kyoto at Daisen-In Zen Garden. The cover is brocade fabric and it opens (from right to left, Japanese style) in accordian format.
This is a page from the garden used as blotter paper. Sometimes they would use fancy blotter paper like this one, or some places would be a scrap of something used just to soak up the extra ink. At one place they gave me a newspaper scrap from an OB/Gyn clinic! Some places would use fine sand to blot the ink.
Here is a fancy Calligraphy page from Kofukuji Temple.
This fancy page is from Daisen-In Temple Garden.
This fancy calligraphy looks a little different from the others. The lady at the counter took my yen and then put the stamp and the date. And then she was pointing behind us. I thought she was pointing at the shrines that the stampu was for, but she was trying to tell us to go to the priest over there. So this is a half-done stampu, ha ha!
Here is a free stamp from Himeji, I believe. One is from the train station and one is from the castle. The first free one I did, Matt kept telling me how to stamp it. "Make sure it's well inked" "Make sure you press hard and firm" that sort of thing. So finally in frustration, I said "Matt, I'm a professional stamper, I *know* how to do this!" Well, you can guess what happened next—it was the worst stamped image I ever made!
This final stamp is from Miyajima. There is a beautiful temple multi-complex there where you visit 6 different stations and stamp a piece of the image at each. When you are done it makes a picture. You can see how well this "professional" stamper matched up the images, ha ha!