Friday, September 12, 2014

Late summer in Nara Park

Kasugano-enchi Park, Sansha Pond, Mt. Wakakusa and Mt. Kasuga

As is said in Japanese saying, “Neither heat nor cold lasts beyond the equinox.”, September of Japan is still summer with gradual cooling. This year, however, our usual hottest and sunniest summer ended as a wet season with lower temperature and since late August I’ve sometimes felt autumn-like air.  When I walked in Nara Park from late afternoon to night on 8th of September, cool and crisp air was comfortable under the high blue sky with autumn clouds.  

Japanese crape myrtle bloom over a long period from mid-summer to early-autumn.  Since this year’s summer heat was not so intense, the flowers were still fresh and brilliant.

Leaves and grasses were still summer green.

Japanese maple leaves with Japanese crape myrtle flowers in the back

Green leaves and moss on wooden trellis

Green colors on the crumbling earthen walls with age

At Ara-ike Park, the colors of some foliage were turning yellowish and some were tinted with gold in the evening sun.

At Sagi-ike Pond, ducks were swimming in the vermilion-gold water, the reflection of the Ukimi-do Pavilion aglow in the evening sun.

8th of September was the harvest moon night (Chushu-no-meigetsu in Japanese), the fifteenth night of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Still more, the moon of the next day 9th was Super Moon, 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter, as it came closer than usual to the Earth. 

A hazy moon thinly veiled by the rosy sunset clouds

The moon is appearing from the clouds.

 The extraordinary big and bright moon rose high above and shone over the world.

Ukimi-do Pavilion at Sagi-ike Pond

On the way to the train station,  two dragon-headed boats were going around Sarusawa-ike Pond as a part of Uneme-matsuri Full-moon Festival .

It was one of late summer days of mine in Nara Park, Nara City.

This post is linked to Friday My Town Shoot Out
Thank you, Mersad, for hosting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer cosmoses

Cosmoses mostly start to bloom in autumn when they perceive the daylight becoming shorter and the blooms continue till the first frost.  At Yagyu Village, the fallow rice fields, river banks, some parts along the highway are often planted with thousands of cosmoses to be enjoyed in Autumn from late September to November.  (2011 post, Autumn walk through cosmos at Yagyu.)
in the early August
Today's post is about summer cosmoses.  I had been caught by the cosmoses blooming in mid-summer whenever I travelled along the road to Yagyu, though they didn't look so spectacular like autumn cosmoses.  One day in early August, I dared to get out of our car to take some pictures of them braving the intense, sizzling heat.  It was hot, hot, too hot, outside, but the cosmoses through my camera lens looked so cool and refreshing as to make me forget the temperatures for a short while.  Some cosmoses looked in good shape, and some weathered though still graceful.  See how they were.

They looked enjoying their lives in the hottest but the sunniest season.

They were flowering in harmony with the fox tails and other weeds as one of the wild grasses.
I like them wild.

I was reminded that a cosmos was really a hardy plant like a weed,
resistant to heat and drought as well as to poor soils.

This early-blooming sunflower lady was  going to end her long tireless and ceaseless labor of scattering seeds already in early August.  Now at late August, summer looks to be nearing to the end with cooler air in morning and evening.  I look forward to the cool and crisp air of autumn.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The first O-bon after my mother's passing

Matsuo Basho wrote in his The Narrow Road to the Deep North, “The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers.” Basho chose solitary and humble life for journeys. The journey itself was his home.

We are the travelers from birth to death in the finite time.  Life itself is a journey. We are born alone and pass away alone though surrounded by the people either smiling or crying respectively.

A lotus grows in muddy water for a long time, rises above the surface to the light of the sun, blooms beautifully unsullied for three days only in the morning, and leaves seeds; this is a lotus’ life journey.

Being with my mother, I thought getting very old must be a lonesome journey with constant declining physical strength, outliving a spouse, siblings and even the oldest son one after another.  I’m not sure the love from the loving loved family members could have sufficed my mother's loneliness but hope it eased her who tended to be suffering in silence.  She showed with her attitude that pains and aches with age is something we must get along with self management, medication if necessary, smiles and sense of humor.

When one person dies, not only her body but also her thoughts and ideas disappear.  But her attitude toward life has been perceived and the spiritual patrimony of family traditions and wisdom are handed to the next generation. I’d like to keep in mind what my mother valued.

in my garden
Though most of the precious things she left are invisible, she left some priceless visible and tangible things: some handicraft and three calendar diaries. 

My mother liked hand-sewing.  In her late years, she made cushions, table center, tissue-box cover, or pouch, out of the scrap of yuzen-dyed kimono cloth which was used to my sister’s kimono and mine. 

A pouch with bottom gusset
Tissue cover
She left three books of calendar diary, the year 2010, 2013 and 2014, perhaps  with intention to be read after her passing. The one for 2014 remained blank.  Everyone couldn’t read without tears; her mundane life including her joys and concern was written down briefly with words of appreciation at each end.

Since her passing away, I have not been overly sad or lonely but have void in my mind and that void has been filled warmly by my family, especially by the bright-eyed innocence of my grandchildren.

at 13- month

at 15-month

His favorite summertime pastime in the crocodile pool

at 43-month
She runs, jumps, spins, and pedals!

O-bon lasts from 13th to 16th of August in my region, which is a Buddhist tradition to hold memorial services for ancestors. Their souls are welcomed with sacred fire and seen off with a bonfire for escorting their spirits.  Until last year, my mother hosted family reunion but this year her soul is going to be welcomed home for the first time tomorrow.

These are a few of photos from Tokae Candle Festival held in Nara Park from August 5 to 15.  Candles are lit one by one to pray for the repose of the soul and to pray gratitude. 

Wish peace in the world and in your mind.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The legacy of Isui-en Garden through its owners

The site of Isui-en Garden now used to be a part of the land of nearby temple. The ground was bought in the 1670s by Kiyosumi Micikiyo, a wealthy bleacher and hemp textile maker.  He reconstructed the front (west) garden and built two houses with thatched roofs: Sanshu-tei and Tei-shu-ken as a family villa.
The bridge below leads you to Sanshu-tei building.

 The building remains the same as it was at the construction time.


The place is used as a Japanese restaurant. 
Isn't it nice to have meals while looking at the garden?

Leaving the front garden and passing by another building, Hyoshin-tei, ......

...., you'll be stunned with the view unfolding before your eyes.
Wakakusa and Kasuga mountains and Nandiamo Gate of Todai-ji are used as "borrowed scenery".

The larger rear (east) garden designed by Seki Tojiro, a businessman of Nara, dates from 1899.  Tojiro hired Horitoku, a garden architect from the school of Urasenke, for the redesign and left two Tea Ceremony houses, Seishu-an and Hyoshin-tei. 

The pond is dug in the shape of the  sosho style Chinese character for 水(water) different from the Japanese garden convention of creating 心(heart).  依水園 Isui-en literally means "garden founded on water".  It's ponds and streams are fed by the small adjacent Yoshiki River.

Hyoshin-tei (1911) is a Tea Ceremony house for more commonly drunk “sencha" different from the Tea Ceremony house for “matcha”. The former is open and is built so that it becomes one with nature, while the latter is closed in a narrow confined room considered to be an entire universe by itself.  (Differences between sencha and matcha)
See how the building looks tuned with nature through the old handmade glasses, ...... 

Inside ceiling made of smoked bamboo and reflection on the glass
.... and how it stands quietly facing the garden.

Many historical assets were taken into the construction of the back garden. For example, old Japanese cypress timbers of Shin-yakush-ji Temple (8th century) are used in the construction of Hyoshin-tei , which adds the weight of history to the sukiya style of building.

The “tsukubae” stone basin was once treasured and used by Hidenaga Toyotomi 400 years ago.

This split huge stone is two-fifths of a foundation stone once used at the seven-storied pagoda of Todai-ji Temple (8th century).

Shall we take a stroll in the garden? 

 The stepping stones were formerly used as mortars to grind the pigments used in dyeing.

While strolling, you always hear the rustling sound of water.

These photos were taken in the middle of may when azaleas were in full bloom and moss were getting greener and greener.

In 1939, Jyunsaku Nakamura (1875-1953) who made his fortune in Kobe purchased Isui-en in order to construct a museum in a historic site to host his personal collection: Chinese mirrors both Tang and Han as well as Chinese bronzes, ceramics of Japan and from Korean peninsula, and so on. He set up Neiraku Museum on its ground and made the garden as it is now.  The third-generation Nakamura, a young 25-year-old man, is preparing to be maganging and hosting as the next owner.
I'm fascinated with the continuance of the legacy.  Three men came to this place with the same dream in the different times and added something new to make the positive progression.