December 01, 2010

Last Flicker of Subtle Beauty, Mizuya-chaya (水谷茶屋)

There are two beautiful princesses in the myth of Nara. One is Princess Saho, the deity of spring. The other is Princess Tatsuta, the deity of autumn.

Princess Tatsuta gracefully flies from tree to tree and whispers to trees "Time has come. Change colors." Her long scarf is flowing and touching to them one by one. Being waked up with her gentle whispers, the trees start to turn myriad colors - crimson, scarlet, red, orange, gold, yellow and more, astonishing variety of hues. Finally she  arrives at Mizuya-chaya (Chaya means a tea room. 水谷茶屋)and finishes her mission. Mizuya-chaya is the last place where people enjoy viewing autumn leaves in Nara Park .

Mizuya-chaya is located at the entrance of the northern approach to Kasuga Grand Shrine. When climbing down the stairs from Mt. Wkakusa or climbing down from  the shrine,  a traditional thatched house suddenly appears . People catch their breath and feel as if they wandered into the fairy land.
It doesn't look like a restaurant but a tiny traditional house. It serves simple food -  noodles and Japanese sweets. You can enjoy the picturesque scenery and food, sitting outside. In all seasons, this place pleases the eye as much as the palate of visitors.

Behind  Mizuya-chaya, trickling is a serene stream,  Mizuya River, now being covered with autumn leaves. The river is the border between the sacred world of Kasuga Grand Shrine and the ordinary world.

There are a few small  paper dolls in the river. In Shinto, there is a purification ritual in which paper dolls are floated down rivers to wash away bad luck.

This picture was taken at the same place on June 30th when the big purification ritual is held annually.

The scenery of the surrounding  area  welcomes us  with the delicate beauty contributing to evoke quiet reflection.

A deer also seems to enjoy glowing autumn leaves.


  1. Your description about the two princess remind me of the story about time;The shortest term of time is made by touching a rock with a long sleeve of an engel's(天女) robe, and it's called Shuyu(須萸), then the tremendously long term is called Kou or Gou(劫)when the touches finally wear faint dent on the rock.

    Camera shots occasionally catch the moments close to Shuyu, and the moments taken by camera show long history behind them.

  2. Stunning photos. Are they all yours? Amazing! I did nto know the story of the 2 Nara goddesses. Thanks for the information.

  3. haricot,

    Thank you for your comment.

    It is very interesting that you see Shuyu(須萸)and Kou or Gou(劫)in the pictures.

    I have heard about 劫 form a priest of Todai-ji Temple. Incredibley long time! This concept of time came from India.

    About 劫, there is another story or theory.
    Once every ten years, a Buddhist angel drops a poppy seed to the ocean. It takes one Kou or Gou(劫)to full the entire ocean with poppy seeds. Kou means almost infinity. How amazing it is that ancient Indian people got the idea already.

  4. Marc,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I took all pictures. When I am in right time when light gives me splendid gifts, I can take pictures which I like very much.

    As haricot says, I also imagine godesses must be like Buddhist angels. I am enjoying this beautiful imagination.

  5. I do love the view around Mizuya-chaya and like to photograph, but during the season, there are always people as you see in my picture (the picture is too small to spot people though) on the sidebar of my blog. I wonder when you took it. You seem to have captured one of few moments of absence of people

    That place is kind of a hub leading to various different famous spots, to Kasuga-okuyama, Kasuga Shrine, New Public Hall, Todaiji Tamukeyama Shrine....., and my favorite French restaurant La Terrasse.

  6. Your pictures are more than pictures! There's a deep silence and poetic sentiments that tug at my heart strings.

    I often go up into Kasuga Okuyama (primeval forest) through Mizu-chaya. I always feel grateful and thankful that I have these surroundings whenever I'd like to do so.

    I have to realize how little I know about Nara, though I was born and brought up in Nara. I have to pretend that I am a non-native of Nara.
    Thank you for your great pictures and informative story again.

  7. I have not known so much how Nara has many beautiful places, and is an ancient place with many myths. With your beautiful photos and the very interesting story of the myth, the place of Kasuga Shrine is becoming close to me.

    Unfortunately, I missed the Japanese sweets enjoying the autumn view in the restaurant this time!! I am going visit the Mizuya-chaya in spring. I could enjoy seeing and feeling the Princess Saho flying around the restaurant with fresh spring.

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  9. stardust,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Mizuya-chaya and its surrounding area are always crowded as this place is the path to major tourist attractions. I went there around 3 o'clock. And I was waiting for the time, eating おぜんざい- Japanese sweets with rice cake. Mizuya-chaya is too perfect as a cammera spot, so whenever I take the pictures, they look like post cards. I tried to photograph it in different angles. But I failed. I'll continue to take the picutures in the different angles.

    When Top Terrasse was open, my friends and I had lunch there in spring. We enjoyed cherry blossoms in full bloom through the windows as well as the glass ceilings. We could see petals of Sakura falling through the transparent ceilings Since then, it has been one of my favourits.

  10. cosmos,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Whenever I go to Kasuga Okuyama, I feel my energy recharged. Air is sweet and the people passing each other are sweet. I haven't been there in spring, but suppose it must be naturally beautifull.

    I walk almost only around Nara Park and still have not gotten tired of its diversity of beauty, moreover it looks fresh every time.

  11. redrose,

    Thank you for your comment.

    When I imagine Princess Saho and Princess Tatsuta, the celestial angels in the warter spray(水煙) of the eastern three story pagoda's finial of Yakushi-ji Temple, pop up in my heart.

    Nara is full of the legends and it seems that legends are increasing day by day.

  12. I've never been such a pretty Mizuya-chaya like fairyland. Your sketch of around there brings me to the secrets world. Expression that Mizuya river is border of the sacred world and usual world makes me imagine God in Kasuga. Nice picture, nice persuasion.

  13. sarari,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Mizuya-chaya may stand in the location just between the sacred and the ordinary. That's why its beauty seem to be deeply mysterious, isn't it?


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