September 25, 2012

Autumn Flowers in Bloom!

Every rain makes  autumn deeper.
After rain,  Kasuga Mountains are folded in mist and look like an ink-wash painting.

Not yet landscapes are colored with autumn foliage, but a lot of autumn flowers are blooming.

I visited Gango-ji Temple, 元興寺 in Nara-machi.

Cluster amaryllis flowers and Jizo statues

 I have seen the chief priest of this temple taking care of plants many times. Under summer sun, he was stubbing weed and watering flowers.  Maybe, the seasonal flowers are the fruits of his  affection and commitment to them.

Cluster amaryllis flowers are in bloom by stone pagodas and stone statues of Jizo Bodhisattva who is a guardian deity of people, particularly of children.

In Sanskurit, the flowers are called "Manjusaka" (Manjushage  曼珠沙華 in Japaneses) which means celestial flowers.

Although the bulbes of the flowers are toxic, how gorgeous but how serene the flowers are!!  I am enchanted by their subtle elaborateness.

Bush clovers also are blooming in the temple.

"Nostalgic Autumn"(my related blog).  photo was taken in September 2011 in Inabuch.
Last year, I visited Inabuchi, Asuka, Nara Prefecture.
How gorgeous the combination of the paddy fields and Cluster amaryllis flowers is!!.

Nara Park is peaceful as usual.

posing with deer antler hair bands

Glory and Tragedytells you the history of this temple with blooming Harushagiku  flowers or coreopsis.
In summer, Nara become Town of Prayers is about  ""Obon(お盆)" and  "Jizo-bon or Jizo-e " festival

September 17, 2012

Land Blessed with Rice

Photo taken in October, 2011

In ancient times, Japan was beautifully called "Mizuho no Kuni"(Land Blessed with Abundant Rice).

In summer, green blades of rice wave in the breeze. In autumn, golden ears of rice bow and shine in the sun. This scenery enriches the Japanese soul.

                                     Photo taken in October, 2011

The harvest has begun and new rice will be in circulation soon.

Across Japan,  we see a sight  where vast areas of blooming flowers appear in the middle of paddy fields. This is the result of rice paddy reduction policy practiced by the government to prevent the price of rice from taking a drop by oversupply of rice, and to protect the rice farmers. Being supported by the government, some farmers have stopped growing rice. Using these fallow rice fields, flowers are planted but not for sale.

At the ruins of Moto Yakushi-ji Temple built around the end of the 7th century,
 purple water hyacinths are in full bloom. 
The flowers were planted by the pupils of a local elementary school

People enjoy the massive beauty of flowers, walking through the fields and taking photos.

Whenever I see this kind of flower fields of water hyacinths or cosmoses , I have ambivalent feelings.

That the flowers pleasure the eye is better than that the fallow rice fields remain abandoned.
But, many countries in the world are suffering severe shortage of food. At such a time, is it right thing to do to practice the rice paddy reduction policy?

The government has put the tariff of 778% on imported rice. Because the high-priced Japanese rice can't compete with cheep imported rice. There is talk of rice liberalization which will drive Japanese rice farmers out of business.

Rice is more than staple food in Japan. It has been the soul food, being deeply connected to our daily life and associated with Japanese culture or Shinto which is indigenous religion of Japan. Without rice, Japan would have been a different country.

The foundation stones of the temple building

In the early evening light, the wings of  dragonflies shine in gold.

No people but me. The ruins are wrapped with shroud of darkness.

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September 10, 2012

In Summer, Nara becomeTown of Prayers

 Every evening I enjoy comfortable temperature and a beautiful moon. In daytime, a coolness of Autumn is  gradually overwhelming a lingering summer heat.

Summer is a colorful season when a various festivals, ceremonies or rituals are held all over Japan. I would like to introduce two ceremonies based on  folk beliefs of Buddhism as my memory of summer in Nara.

One is "Obon(お盆)" and the other is "Jizo-bon or Jizo-e (地蔵盆 or 地蔵会)", both of them are held across the country.

 "Obon (お盆) " is the 3-day period of the year from August 13th to 15th when the spirits of the deceased return to this world to spend three happy days with their families.  The memorial services are held to dedicate to the spirits. Also "Obon" is a good chance for family gatherings or friend reunions. 

On the first day and the last day, Bon fires are made to welcome the spirits and then to say  Good-bye to them. I love this belief which gives me a quiet comfort. At least once a year the spirits of the beloved people will come back to see us from the other world. The poem or song "Do not stand at my grave and weep" 千の風になって",   like "Obon" makes  me feel soothing .

"Do not stand at my grave and weep" translated in Japanese

This is the "Ten Thousand Candle Ceremony, 万燈会" held for Obon on August 15th at
Todai-ji Temple 東大寺Actually ten thousand candles are lit around Great Buddha Hall.

The window is open two times a year. The illuminated face of Great Buddha 
is welcoming us in a warm atmosphere. 

smoke from an incense burner

On a lantern, a prayer of a worshiper is written.

a fierce face of one of four directional divine guardians to protect Buddha.
Amazing! The artists used the rings very effectively. Sorry, the photo is not clear.

Many kinds of charms are sold in Great Buddha Hall.

This is "Jizo Bon, or Jizo-e (地蔵盆、地蔵会)"  held on August 23rd and 24th at Gango-ji Temple, 元興寺. This ceremony is dedicated to Jizo Bodhisattva who is a guardian deity of people, particularly of children. 

This lovely temple has a number of  stone statues or tablets of Buddhist deities or pagodas. 

 Dim glows of candles are flickering and create the peaceful pure land of Jizo.

In the precincts of the temple, there are many temporary stalls for food or games.

This temple is well-known for blooming seasonal flowers.
 Early summer Harushagiku or coreopsis are in full bloom.

Late summer bell flowers in bloom

There are five demons which live in this temple with Buddhist deities.

A crescent moon and crape myrtle flowers 

my related blog Glory and Tragedy

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September 02, 2012

Let's BA・SA・RA ! !

Every year at the end of August, two-day Basara Dancing Festival is held in Nara. This year 42 groups joined. It is not a dancing contest. The participants keep dancing, dancing, dancing and dancing. Long summer in Nara is gone with the end of the festival.

Let's BASARA! Let's pop! 踊る・なら・そらっ!

According to a calender,  autumn started yesterday, September 1st.  During daytime it is still hot. But at night,  a hint of autumn in the air can be detected here and there - cool breezes, chirping grasshoppers or crickets under a beautiful moon.

Tense moment before a performance. They are the first performers of  the festival.

Basara is not a traditional festival with a long history.  It started in 1999. I look back at the 8th ‐century Nara which was the capital and the center of the country. At that time Nara was the most modern and the most colorful international city in Japan. Imagine that people from different countries were walking streets in traditional national costumes which must have looked conspicuous and exotic.  The performers in the characteristic dresses makes me think how Nara looked like in the 8th century !

 Prayers - They are from Sanriku, Tohoku. On March 11th  last year, hideous triple disasters attacked Tohoku, earthquakes, Tsunami and leakage of radiation from nuclear power plants.

Drum beating is heart beating! When they stamp their feet, I feel tremors !

They are moving to a site for their last performance.

The burst of energy changes the ordinary to the extraordinary. It's Basara!

He is a great flagman!

Streams of colors swirl up and soar in the summer sky.

A lot of children are enjoying to join the festival and won't forget these exciting memories. Nara is their sweet hometown.

Always there is a start, there is an end.

For your reference: What is "BASARA"?
Basara has several meanings.
In the 14th century, there was  special aesthetics to make themselves conspicuous by wearing glitzy dresses or doing high-profile behaviors trendsetting the hierarchy system, slighting to the authority of  the ruling class.  The special aesthetics were referred to as Basara.
Basara is the name of one of twelve divine guardians to protect Buddha.
Basara also means "Diamond" in Sanskrit.

my related blog
Hottest Day in Kyoto
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