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


  1. OH, how absolutely magical - both the flowers and especially the temple shots. So much peace, so much beauty!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your lines and getting the background information from the Buddhist deity Kannon while looking at your pictures, Keiko.
    They mirrow the quiet, calm, silence and peace of this magic place perfectly!


  3. Such a beautiful post! Hydrangeas in full bloom are such a beauty. I just saw some big ones at the parking spot of La Mare Wine Estate in Jersey - but yours are much prettier coz they are on a special place with a special meaning. I love your story how you have to walk to the temple through a steep staircare and such a tunnel-like structure and how you take us with you in your story and words up the mountain to visit Kannon temple.

  4. Every post is just more beautiful. I could sit in that main hall for hours and hours and hours, just ... being.

    PS: I want to spend my retirement doing pilgrimages! One day! Kii peninsula, Shikoku, Kannon, Chichibu, etc etc etc. ;)

  5. Your shots with light and shadow effectively are superb as always. I can feel the atmosphere in moisture weather and the calmness of the temple.
    I had no idea to go to pilgrimage, though I will change my mind like hydrangeas?
    I remember your photo of a hydrangea with snail. I liked it very much.

  6. I liked your observation about the changing hues of the flower and the changing mind. Seen in this context, such a trait would not be negative but rather depend on the surrounding environment or, in the case of the flowers, the chemistry of the soil. Your photos of the temple and its surroundings have a positive, peaceful feel. This seems like a place where serious prayer would be warmly received and most certainly heard. :)

  7. How long I looked at these pictures! They really made me speechless. Especially the shot from inside of the temple gives me a strong impression; absolute serenity, simplicity and solemnity and the long years passing by.
    Thank you for this meditating time.

  8. 梅雨時の長谷寺は紫陽花の優しい色彩、湿った木造建築の濃茶色、木々の緑が調和してしっとりとした穏やかな趣が感じられます。心が疲れているときに最適の雰囲気です。登廊に人影がありませんが、何時ごろの撮影ですか? ボタンの時期は朝の開門同時でも混雑していますが、冬は比較的ひっそりとしていました。

  9. Keiko, these are beautiful pictures, as usual. I very much like the dragon water basin, and I think that I, too, would like the tunnel. Perhaps it's the way that the pillars are designed, but there seems to me to be almost a shimmering and reflecting effect like walking through a dream tunnel.

    Not all flowers are associated with emotions for me, but hydrangeas - very much so. They always seem rather gentle and melancholy. Of course,they do flourish in dark places and they are happy in the rain. I wonder if visiting this garden would make me sad or happy.

  10. Keiko, I enjoy your blog so much - reading your posts and looking at your beautiful photographs always drapes a mantle of serenity and appreciation over me. Out of all the posts you have written, this one is my favorite. My very favorite.
    Next time I am feeling overwhelmed, I will remember to have a heart to heart talk with Kannon, and think about the peace of this temple...
    We have just planted 24 hydrangea bushes around our property - next year we will have masses of hydrangea flowers, and I will think of you - and Kannon!

  11. おそらく、長谷寺は子どもの頃、学校で習ったような覚えがあります。こんなにきれいでいいところなんですね。奈良にそもそも行ったことないですが、ぜひとも行ってみたくなりました。

  12. Absolutely STUNNING photos. The hydrangeas are so beautiful and they are a plant that holds great memories for me as there are lots planted in Brittany, Northern France where we have spent so many lovely holidays. Interesting story about 33 too.
    I also loved the images of the temple and its lovely shiny timber floor and its perfect view. Great post, thank you!

  13. Keikoさんのように歴史に詳しくて、訪れる建造物やアイコンが持つ意味を知って見るのは面白いでしょうね。私はただただ見せて頂ける美しい紫陽花や、竹林に感嘆し、抽象的で意味ありげな建物の構造、火や水、影から人間の想いを想像するばかりです。なんとかと煙は高い所が好きなんて言われてますが、この度も高い山頂まで連れて行って頂けて感激です!(*´∇`*)

  14. Lovely photos of the temple and hydrangeas. Makes me want to go to Nara again!!

  15. Keiko,you must have felt intoxicated after viewing hydrangeas at three temples! I would love to actually see this,however your beautiful photos are the next best thing.It must be quite an assault on the senses to be in such a place.The thing which stands out for me is the beauty of the mature wood especially the amazing polished floors........a lot of work,but I imagine it being lovingly done!It's reassuring to know that the blooms will return again next year.
    Thanks for this interesting tour!


  16. いつもの様にすばらしいお写真で、私なんかとは物を見る目が違うなと思います。長谷寺の回廊の2枚は、新発見です。この間桜を撮りに長谷寺へ行きましたが、こんな風に撮るなんて思いもつきませんでした。

  17. What an interesting post, the staircase picture at the beginning almost looks like a tunnel and the scenery and flowers along the journey are beautiful.

  18. Your hydrangea images are breathtaking!

  19. Keiko, how I would enjoy following the path of steps through the blooming Hydrangea! Everything looks freshened by the rain. The holy place is a gift - I , too, hope you can continue to walk these steps into your old age.

  20. You always transport me to a place of such serenity where every single thing is esthetically pleasing to the eyes - the forms and lines of the temple, the glossy floors, the whispers of the bamboo grove. I only wish that I could live there for a year, but would that be enough time? I doubt it. I'm especially enthralled with the long, gentle steps leading upwards. And the Dragon water basin. A truly magical place. Thank you for sharing your world Keiko. This just made my day.

  21. Absolutely beautiful. I love hydrangeas and so your first photo drew me right in. Such a lovely spot and your narrative so informative and comfortably casual. Thanks so much your visit to my blog. I am happy to have found yours in return.

  22. 三室戸寺のアジサイ、実に見事ですね。私、このお寺行ったことがなくて。一度訪ねたいものです。長谷寺は四季折々にステキな花を咲かせますね。アジサイの情景もとても風情があります。
    それから、礼堂かな? あの床!私、合板を使っていない古い建造物に使われている無垢材フェチなんですよ。写真が本当に美しく撮れていて、ああ、裸足でその感触を味わってみたい!WOW!
    西国三十三ヶ所! 母がそのご朱印帳をもっています。どのお寺もそれは見事に流麗に墨で書いてくださって立派なスタンプを押してくださるので、母の宝物です。

  23. I've never seen hydrangeas in the wild, here we see them mostly as indoors potted plants. They're beautiful. As always your post is very interesting and I learn new things from it about your country.

  24. Your posts make me feel like, in Japan, everything is beautiful and aesthetic, and the sun is always shining :)

  25. Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving your comments. I always enjoy reading your comments.

  26. Hi,Snowwhite.
    Have a good Sunday.

  27. こんばんは。 いつもとても綺麗な写真ですね。天邪鬼を見ると「おーい、重いか」と声をかけてやると、「全然、重くない」と返事がかえって来るのと思いながら歩きます。

  28. ❤✿•.¸•.¸¸

    ♡ Boa semana!

  29. How I had loved my tours along with you, and this one is no different.

    So beautiful, calm and peaceful - the flowers, the stories associated, the stairs, the prayer hall, the glowing lamp. I could hear everything that was written in this post and I closed my eyes for a few moments after reading it completely.

    Thank you for transporting me to such a heavenly place, snowwhite!

  30. I had missed this post! It is as always so lovely and informative. I did not know that Hydrangeas grew in Japan. I love them and your photos are beautiful. The temple is so peaceful. And that dragon fountain .....

  31. Achei seu blog na blogosfera.
    E adoreii!

    Já estou te seguindo..
    Me visite tbm

    Ótima Madrugada \º/

  32. Another very great walk in Japan.


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko