June 26, 2012

Pilgrimage and Hydrangeas

    The above photo was taken in Mimuroto-ji temple, 三室戸寺 in Kyoto more
                than two weeks ago. Now, more flowers must be blooming.

What is the most nostalgic scenery in June for me? It is ・・・・・
Hydrangeas are in full bloom in gentle rain and a snail is restring on its leave. Now we are in the middle of one-month long rainy season. Gracious shower for flowers, plants and all beings.

 I visited three temples with hydrangeas in bloom. I will take you to one of them.

Hase-dera Temple, 長谷寺 in Nara is Kannon Temple. Kannon is the Buddhist deity of mercy and compassion. As Kannon  resides in Mt. Fudaraku ( 補陀落) in Japanese or Mt.Potalaka in Sanskrit, many Kannon temples are built on hillsides or mountainsides. 

The staircases appear one after another.

More steps we climb up, closer we get to Kannon.

I love the tunnel with the lovely columns. I feel 
as if I were being absorbed to a mysterious dimension.

Along the stone steps,  hydrangeas welcome us quietly.

so many staircases・・・・・

33 is a symbolic number in Buddhism.
Because, Kannon transforms himself into 33 different forms to save people. He chooses one specific form to each person who prays for his help. I was wondering whether it is negative or positive or neutral to change colors like hydrangeas as it associates with changing mind.
But, when I think about 33 manifestations of Kannon, changing colors of the flowers seem to symbolize his benevolence. This temple is the 8th of the 33 Kannon pilgrimage temples in the western Japan. A pilgrim carries a notebook to collect 33 stamps in 33 temples. The notebook with 33 stamps will be put in a coffin as the passport to the heaven. Someday I will go on a pilgrimage to collect 33 stamps with my husband, following the flowers and being led by Kannon.

At last, I arrived at the main hall where Eleven-faced Kannon is enshrined. Does Mt. Potalaka, where Kannon resides, look like this?

The Kannon of Hase-dera Temple is very unique, because he has both virtues as Kannon who is the deity of mercy and compassion as well as Jizo who is the guardian deity of people, especially children and travelers.

This is a place for sincere prayers.
Heart to heart talk with Kannon. He sees and listens to people in suffering with his heart.

A heavy bronze incense burner is supported by three demons. I remember Atlas who is holding the earth on his shoulders as punishment.  For me, the burden seems to be not burden anymore for the demons here. Because the precincts are embraced with mercy and compassion of Kannon.


Dragon water basin

The pilgrimage to Kannon temples has been very popular since ancient time, and the temple is mentioned in "The Tale of Genji"written by Murasaki Shikibu around 11th century and "The Pillow Book" written by Sei Shonagon around 11th  century.
 Nowadays  especially among elderly people. Whenever I see them climbing up staircases with steady steps, I hope I will be healthy enough to climb up to a mountainside like them when I reach their age.

Whispering bamboo grove near the temple

My related blogs:
 Nostalgic Scenerry in Rainy Day
Farewel Sakura 
( Last year, When I visited "Matabe" cherry tree, for me the sakura tree looked like the one- thousand-handed Kannon Bodhisattva and people were pilgrims.)

For reference:
This is the stamp of the 9th Kannon pilgrimage temple, South Octagonal Hall 南円堂 of Kofuku-ji Temple 興福寺 in Nara Park. They write a temple name in calligraphy and stamp a red seal on the notebook.

White uniforms of pilgrims

                    South Octagonal Hall, 南円堂 of Kofuku-ji temple and pilgrims

June 15, 2012

We love tragic hero.

This is a hidden tourist attraction in Nara! My impression when I came here first time  was  " Oh, This is the loveliest scenery in the most boring place".  Here is the rooftop of Nara Prefecture Office Building, the six storied modern building.

Here you enjoy is the 360 degree panoramic view of Nara City.

Whenever I stand here, I realize Nara is a basin surrounded with the lush mountains. Time seems to flow slowly and differently. In the olden days, Nara was called "Yamato".

I remember one tragic hero in a legend, Prince Yamato Takeru日本武尊 who  lived around the 1st century.

His Last poem. 
大和は 国のまほろば たたなづく 青垣 山ごもれる 大和しうるわし

There is no place better than Yamato.
Surrounded by the mountains, 
Ranging like verdurous hedges,
How beautiful Yamato is!
By Yamato Takeru
(Yamato is the ancient name of Nara and also Japan.)

Story of "Yamato Takeru", which was written by  Umehara Takeshi 梅原猛 for Super Kabuki, スーパー歌舞伎,  is following.
While trying to stop his twin elder brother rising  in rebellion, Takeru kills accidentally his brother. Their father, Emperor, gets angry with Takeru and orders him to conquer the enemies in a remote area. As soon as  he completes his mission, his father dispatches Takeru to other enemy lands. The father never forgives Takeru or welcomes him in his hometown, Yamato. Takeru loves his father, but the father seems to want Takeru to die. When he fights against the deity of Mt. Ibuki following the order of his father, Takeru seriously gets  injured and ill.  On the way back to Yamato, he becomes unable to move anymore and dies dreaming of Yamato. The above poem is mentioned by dying Takeru. This story has a consolation. His soul transforms into a big white bird and flies away to Yamato. He can go back to a beautiful Yamato at last!

Did he dream of these mountains?

His sad story has been written by many writers. The Japanese sympathize with and love tragic heroes. Next month, July in Tokyo  "Yamato Takeru" written by Umehara Takeshi will be performed in Super Kabuki. Since the premiere in 1986, this play has been performed more than 800 times. Super Kabuki is different from traditional classic Kabuki 歌舞伎 which has a lot of customs or  rules, and whose language is rather difficult. Ichikawa Ennosuke the third created Super Kabuki, スーパー歌舞伎 transcending the customs and rules, still being based on the essence of classic Kabuki. He put more entertainment-type elements, such as acrobatic actions or extravaganza stage settings, on Super Kabuki, and made language easier. Super Kabuki focuses on 3Ss, "Story, Speed and Spectacle" while keeping attractiveness which the classic Kabuki has. 

New Ichikawa Ennosuke, who is The Forth, plays "Yamato Taketru".
Here Takeru's soul transforms into a big white bird and flies away to his hometown, Yamato.

This tragedy has touched people's heartstrings for a long time. The story about a deep conflict between a parent and a child, has eternal appeals in spite of nationality, culture, time and more. 

Now let's enjoy a lovely scenery of Nara City from the rooftop. 
The five storied pagoda of Kofuku-ji temple  and a dramatic sky in the south . 

In the east, you see the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji temple.
The clouds are casting shadows and slowly passing over the mountains.
 People in the 8th century, when Nara was the capital of Japan,
watched the same scenery. 

Anybody can use a restaurant.

Again go back to the rooftop where the sun is setting in on Mt.Ikoma separating Nara and Osaka.

At the entrance, looking from the inside to the outside.

Nara Prefecture Office Building