May 28, 2012

In every wood in every spring there is a different green

May is the best season of year when we can enjoy the numerous hues of burning green.  
One day I walked a nature trail to Mt. Wakakusa through the Kasuga Primeval Forest of Mt. Kasuga in Nara. Kasuga Grand Shrine is at the foot of Mt.Kasuga.

This is a cozy tea room in an old Japanese style, surrounded with fresh maples.
 Here is the start point of the nature trail.

  On its thatched roof, baby maples are growing.

The extensive forest in Mt.Kasuga is considered sacred, so no one is allowed to cut down the trees or hunt animals. Now this primeval forest nurtures many kinds of plants, animals and insects as a sanctuary for the living beings. The forest was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

In every wood in every spring there is  a different green.

The sunlight softly slants through the overlapping leaves. The entire forest looks like a natural cathedral with shimmering emerald stained glasses and  graceful canopies. When a breeze blows over the green canopies, flickering sunlight through the  leaves quietly falls on me. I feel as if I were in the bottom of the sea and looking up at the surface of water. What a  pleasant and soothing moment it is!

 This is the top of Mt. Wakakusa,  Mt. Young Grass,  where  "Grass Burning Festival" is held in January every year.

In every wood in every spring there is  a different green.

When I came back to the start, the charming cafe was closed already.

I got to know this words "In every wood in every spring there is a different green."
 ("I sit and Think" by J.R.R.Tolkien, the anthor of  "The Lord of the Rings".) through Professor Sheffner (his blog).  Also last year he left the similar comment  on my blog "Everything is Bathed in Green Breeze, Isui-en Garden". "In every tree, in every wood, there is a different green" (Bilbo Baggins in "Lord of the Rings").

I have been deeply inspired by the words of Tolkien. For me, his words seem to depict the essence of life in spring green and its mysterious energy.  This spring, I visited a several places to find out the green mentioned by Tolkien.  It was somthing like a quest or pilgimiage with no religious meanings. But, I felt it was enough to visit even only Mt. Kasuga and its forest. Every place had its own unique shades of green.

May 20, 2012

Hidden Temple Bathed in Radiant Green

I thought "This is a hidden temple in a hidden place".

It takes only five minutes' walk to the temple from a tiny local station
which is at the foot of Mt. Hiei, the holy mountain in Kyoto.
Here is already a different world lapped with jade-like radiant green of maple trees!

Crossing a lovely wooden bridge, I feel as if the temple
 were cut away from the ordinary world.

going and going・・・・

Soon, the mountain gate of the temple appears. It has a beautiful name, 瑠璃光院, Lapis Lazuli Light Temple.  Healing Buddha resides in the Eastern Pure Land which is wrapped in glowing Lapis Lazuli Light.

Mountain Alley Garden leading to the other gate

 I feel warm hospitality of the temple, because at each viewing spot, Japanese style cushions are ready for the visitors. All  you see are the waves of maple leaves whirling in numerous shades of  green. All you hear  are  bush warblers  and Mori-aogaeru in Japanese, which are small tree frogs, singing in quiet chorus.
This is the second floor where you see  green reflections here and there.

This is " Lapis Lazuli Garden".  It is said that Pure Lapis Lazuli Land of Healing Buddha will appear  in the garden when some particular weather conditions coincide. One temple staff member said to me," When proper elements coincide after sudden rainfall in the sunshine,  Healing Buddha's Pure Land will appear." The name of the temple is based on this " Lapis Lazuli Garden". 

This is "Lapis Lazuli ".

This is "Crouching Dragon Garden".

a tea room

The history of the temple is rather short compared with other temples in Kyoto. At the beginning of the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), the villa was built at this site by Sanetomi Sanjo who was a high-ranked court noble and one of the most important figures in the Meiji Government. The villa was renovated and turned into the temple.

The main characteristics of the temple are dozens of different kinds of maples trees, carpets of moss and hundreds of Japanese Andromeda. (In spring and autum, this temple is  open to public.)

In May,  standing under the shadows of  maples trees, I bathe in flickering light and feel as if I were dyed in luminous green.

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May 13, 2012

Lady Purple

Wisteria flowers are symbolic blooms in Nara. Usually, in early May no matter where you go in Nara Park,  you are welcomed by the purple clusters shining in a balmy sunlight.


This year seemed not to be a good year for wisterias.  Nara Park was supposed to become the paradise of wisterias.  But, the clusters were shorter and the flowers were less than usual. What happened to them?  Last year they did splendid jobs and pleased the eye of people.  I guess the wisterias were too tired to bloom in full power and Spring Goddess decided to give them a rest.

Why are wisterias here and there in the park?
In the 8th century when Nara became the new capital of Japan, the Fujiwaras were the most powerful and rich clan. They expanded their political power through marriage with the Imperial family. The same old story here! Fujiwara means "Wisteria Field". Wisterias were the Fujiwaras' favorite flowers.

 Kasuga Grand Shrine

Kasuga Grand Shrine was founded by the Fujiwaras as their family shrine as well as the guardian deity for the new capital in the 8the century. The shrine is famous for a seven hundred year old wisteria which is called "Sand-Sweeping Wisteria (砂摺りの藤)" as the  clusters grow long and look as touching the ground almost. The longest cluster was measured 1.65 meters in length last year. 

The Fujiwaras loved wisterias, so the hanging wisterias became  the crest of the Fujiwaras as well as Kasuga Grand Shrine. 

This is one of two guardian lions in front of the second Torii gate.
The crest of the Fujiwaras  is carved on the  pedestal.

The shrine maidens wear a crown of wisteria flowers.
This is "Rice Planting Ceremony" held every year in March in the shrine.

I have ambivalent feelings toward wisterias. The hanging flowers are graceful. The colors of wisterias, various shades of purple, are so noble. But under the flowers there are vines coiling and twining other trees. And they are climbing up and blooming on the top.

This is my blog about wild wisterias.
I love wild wisterias more than cultivated ones, because I can see the nature of the flowers in the wild wistreerias better. This year, the wild wisteria bore less and less flowers. So, no photos of them.

 For me snake-like vines of wisterias look like the legacy
 of the power struggles fought in the Imperial court in the 8th century.

Purple has been a noble and mysterious color since ancient times. 

紫草(むらさき)の にほへる妹を 憎くあらば 人妻ゆゑに われ恋ひめやも
Oh, beautiful  you,  like a purple grass!
How I can give up my love towards you
even though  you are other man's wife!
(mentioned by Prince Oama in the 7th century)

What a passionate love letter it is! Though there is another interpretation, I'd like to take this poem as the outpouring of his emotion. According to one theory, in those days purple was so loved that the color was synonymous with purple.  The flowers of purple grasses were mentioned a several times in  an ancient anthology of poems which has been loved for over 1200 years by people in Japan. It is 万葉集 - Anthology of Ten Thousand Leaves.

The flowers of purple grasses are lily white. The dried  roots of the grasses were used to dye clothes in deep purple and the grass symbolized a lover. I wonder what color  it is. They say natural purple is much deeper than synthetic purple.

Flikering like puple stained glasses. 

In "The Tale of Genji" (源氏物語) written by Murasaki Shikibu around the beginning of the 11th century, two ladies take important roles in the story. One is 藤壷, Lady Fuji-tsubo and another one  is his wife, 紫の上, Murasaki-no-ue. Fuji means wisteria flowers and Murasaki is purple in English. Two women are depicted as his ideal female figures. Shining Genji devotes his eternal love to them. The name of the author also has the color  purple.

"The Potted Wisteria Exhibition"held in May in Nara.