October 29, 2012

Fantasy of Pampas Grasses in Old Capital Site

I often come here to enjoy viewing the sky. This is the ancient capital site, Heijo Kyo
Imperial Audience Hall

This vast area has almost nothing except Imperial Audience Hall (大極殿) reconstructed in 2010 and Suzaku Gate (朱雀門) in 1998.  Nothing or simpleness is beautiful. Here you can see the sky changing, especially around evening twilight. 

Suzaku Gate

Once upon a time, Nara was the Capital of Japan, called Heijo-kyo (平城京).  It had been the center of the country from 710 to 784, where the emperors had held sway over Japan. When the Capital was moved to Kyoto, all structures were dismantled, transferred to and reassembled in the new capital.  So Heijo-kyo became abandoned soon, and started to be covered with paddy fields gradually.  The old capital had been forgotten and slept under the paddy fields for 1200 years.  

In 1852,  Sadamasa Kitaura (北浦定政) found the old capital had been here.  In 1952, the old capital site was designated as a Special National Historic Site (特別史跡) at last.  In 1998, this site was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage site (世界遺産). But too late. In 1914, Kinki Nippon Railway Co., Ltd. started to operate a line between Osaka and Nara. In the middle of the World Heritage Site the trains came to be running. 

In autumn, the site becomes the paradise of Japanese pampas grasses.  By showing so many different faces, they surprise me always.

They look like the manes of the running horses in wind.

Sometimes, they look like silver benevolent rain to grow plants.

Through a gentle veil of pampas grasses,  the passengers on a train are seen.

Gold waves in the ocean.

Pampas grasses have long been loved by Japanese people. Sei Shonagon (清少納言), a female writer and a court lady who wrote  "The Pillow Book (枕草子)"  at the beginning of the 11th century, mentioned;

秋の野の おしなべたるをかしさは 薄こそあれ

It means "Thanks to pampas grasses,  the autumn fields are aesthetic and elegant." Sorry  I cannot translate well.

Amazingly pampas grasses fit autumn dusk.

They are beckoning on the sunset.

The setting sun shows the last glow 
and a train is running through  pampas grass field in the ancient capital site.

Under a pale crescent.  It is a fantasy.

 If I am lucky enough, I can encounter such a dramatic sunset.

Visit Skywatch Friday and see more!!

October 20, 2012

Cosmos in Cosmoses

Already Nara is in the middle of deep autumn. Everyday, the air is getting transparent and crispy more and more. I am enjoying the most comfortable time of the year!

I visited Hannya-ji Temple (般若寺) in Nara. This temple is well-known as Cosmos Temple. The history of the temple is said to date back to the 7th century.
 The main hall of the temple looks as if it were floating 
amid 150,000 cosmos flowers of 35 species.

Cosmoses are flowers native to Mexico. Around the end of the 18th century, the seeds of the flowers were first brought to Antonio Jose Cavanilles, the chief of Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid , Spain from Mexico. He named these flowers "Cosmos bipinnatus"

The word origin of "cosmos" comes from Greek word "Kosmos" which means order, harmony and the universe.  Maybe, people have seen the harmonious and well-ordered beauty in the flowers also.  Cosmetic or Cosmopolitan are derived from "cosmos".

For me cosmoses are difficult flowers to take photos.
Often they are very photogenic, but suddenly they turn photo-shy.

Among lovely flowers, the stone statues of Buddhist deities appear and greet us here and there.

How peaceful their archaic smiles are! Maybe they are whispering us
about the Buddhist cosmos in the middle of the  waves of cosmoses. 

Hannya (般若) means the wisdom of Buddha to see the truth.  The name of Hannya-ji Temple means this.

Interesting enough, Hannya has another meaning. It is said in Japan if a woman is so jealous, she transforms to a  female demon with two horns,  which is also called Hannya(般若).  This is a  mask of the female demon tormented by jealousy. The mask is used in Noh plays. As this type of masks were made by Priest Hannya first, so that they have been called Hannya.

My related blog
Most Beautiful Jealousy
Heart Sutra

Zizo Bodhisattva, a guardian deity of people especially children, wears a red bib where Heart Sutra (Hannya Sin Gyo, 般若心経) is written.  Heart Sutra, composing of  276 Chinese characters, is one of the shortest sutras. But it shows the essence of Buddha's teachings. Listening to Buddhist priests  chanting this sutra is soothing and brings me the peaceful state of mind.

 The thirteen-storied stone pagoda in early sunset.

大空の 青きとばりに 寄りそひて

人を思へる こすもすの花


Snuggling up to the blue shroud of the wide sky

Longing for someone

Cosmos flowerers

By Akiko Yosano (1878 - 1942)

She is one of the greatest poets. Her poems are characterized by a fiery passion and love. Surprisingly enough, she changed so neat and clean flowers into so passionate ones!

a dragonfly and cosmoses

参考) 季節の花事典、 麓 次郎 著、(株)八坂書房 発行所

October 09, 2012

Nostalgia in Asuka

This is Inabuchi(稲淵) area in Asuka.

A beautiful countryside landscape evokes nostalgia. Golden ears of rice shine under a high autumn sky, and cluster amaryllises are in bloom at the edges of the paddy fields.

I visited Inabuchi area,  Asuka in Nara Prefecture. Asuka, the ancient capital of Japan, is famous for terraced paddy fields and ancient burial mounds. This soothing scenery never disappoints me. I deeply breathe in fresh air and fully feel recharged.

I saw a lot of dragonflies. 

The paths are lined with lovely scarecrows.
 Orthodox scarecrow 

My favorite. Father and Son are enjoying Sake rice wine after working in the fields.

Inabuchi is well-known for fascinating terraced paddy fields, but also backed by a lot of charming bamboo groves. The contrast of the bamboos in the sun and in the shade was beautiful. While I was taking photos, one bamboo in the shadow was glistening for about ten seconds or so. It was a mystery!  I imagined Princess Kaguya in "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" might have came down to the bamboo from the moon.

Since ancient times Japan has been called beautifully "Mizuho no Kuni (瑞穂の国), Land Blessed with Abundant Rice"where the people have been growing rice for more than 2000 years. Freshly boiled  pearly rice is the best delicacy and the symbol of happiness.  When I feel down, steaming boiled rice gives me a power to recover. Rice is the only one product whose self-sufficiency rate is 100% in Japan.

This area is blessed with rich sources of water.

It is hard to imagine why Cluster Amaryllis flowers are associated with ominous images.  The flowers have a lot of different names in Japanese. According to Wikipedia, they are called, flowers of the dead,  ghost flowers, hell flowers,  flowers of abandoned children and so on. 
But, also they are appreciated as celestial flowers. I agree with this 100%!

I am fascinated by this delicate  beauty.

Asuka is also the cradle of  Buddhism of Japan.  In 538 or 552, Buddhism was officially  introduced to Japan through  King Song (聖明王) of Korea who sent Buddhist statues and sutras to the Emperor.  Whether or not  Buddhism should be accepted in Japan, pro-Buddhist party led by the Soga clan (蘇我氏) and anti-Buddhist party led by the Mononobe clan (物部氏) fought against each other. After 35 year struggles,  the pro-Buddhist Soga clan won the war. This war is often said to have been the religious war, but also it is said that actually two powerful clans struggled for supremacy. In Japan religious wars have been rare. In 596, Soga no Umako (蘇我馬子), the supreme leader of the Soga clan, built Asuka-dera Temple, the first Buddhist temple in Japan.

This is called "Ishi-butai 石舞台" , which literally means "Stone Stage". This stone stage consists of about thirty granite rocks and weighs about 2300 tons. This Stone Stage is believed to be the tomb of Soga no Umako who was the most powerful man at that time and  built Asuka-deraTemple, the first Buddhist temple in Japan.

Around Stone Stage, Japanese sliver grasses are shining in the sun and beckoning us.

The spikes of the grasses look like sparkling  jewels.

my related blog, Nostalgic autumn.