Gio-ji Temple, Kyoto: Part 3 of 4

A mother's wish for love, a daughter's wish for death

By Shozo Fujii    - 4 min read

These days Gio-ji Temple is a tourist spot in Sagano, Kyoto, near Togetsukyo, which becomes lively around the weekends. However, in older times this place must have felt a great distance from the capital city (*at the time, Kyoto). Around Mt. Ogura, the solitude is appropriate for reflecting on the wisdom of Nembutsu at one of the many Pure Land Buddhism temples in the area. The serene settings of Gio-ji Temple (祇王寺) puts your mind at ease.

The historical figure Kiyomori could not understand the subtleties of a woman's emotion (often to his own selfishness and lust). You can compare a kitten playing with a ball to Kiyomori and his attraction to women. A cat is completely engaged playing with a ball, but if a new ball happened to appear, the cat would automatically become hypnotized by its arrival--ignoring the old one. We saw this in part 2 of the series when Kiyomori ruthlessly cast aside his lover, Gio, for a mysterious, younger Hotokegozen. And so the story continues... 

Kiyomori writes a letter to his old lover the following spring:

"What have you been up to? Hotokegozen looks so bored these days. So, why don't you instead come back to dance and sing for me. Then go consult with her."

Gio stood there in disbelief after hearing this. Kiyomori was surely the worst when it came to treating women. In any case, Gio was not able to reply to such a message. So again, Kiyomori sent another message--this time more direct and threatening:

"Why didn't you respond to my message? Did you intend on not replying? If you will not come to see me, you must tell me the reason. Think about us."

Gio's mother was afraid what might happen if her daughter did not obey the powerful Kiyomori. Eventually, Gio was persuaded to visit him. Crying uncontrollably, she left the house to fulfill wishes of her mother.

"Ahhh, Gio, it's been such a long time. Where were you? Something must have happened. Anyway, it's alright. Won't you sing a song or something? Hotokegozen hasn't been so lively recently."

Gio was resolute in her decision to return, however, standing in front of Kiyomori and Hotokegozen, she was not able to hold back her tears as she sang one song:

Long ago Buddha was an ordinary person.

We will also become Buddha when we die.

While the nature of Buddha is inside our bodies,

it is a great sorrow that we can not be together.

Of the people that had gathered to listen the song, not one was not crying tears of gratitude. Kiyomori felt a sense of deep compassion towards Gio. The impressed Kiyomori replied:

"Now that was a splendid song. I also wanted to see you dance, but you can show me next time. For now, go and rest." Then he briskly walked away.

The grumbling Gio complained to her mother and sister which had come to welcome her inside the resting area:

"Mother, I have fulfilled your wishes. It was such a terrible request for a parent to ask their child. I can expect only the same bad life as before with him. I am considering killing myself."

"If my sister is going to kill herself, so shall I," Gio's sister said as she clasped her hands together.

(The final chapter continues on part 4)​ 

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai.   Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.

Original by Shozo Fujii

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Veronika Tomanova 4 years ago
Thanks for your info about Giou-ji Temple! It's a very detailed one.