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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hydrangea walk in the forest green


About 50,000 hydrangeas of 25 varieties bloom one after another from mid-June through the end of July at Kobe Arboretum (Kobe Shinrin Shokubutsuen).  Though hydrangeas at the arboretum are taken care, hydrangeas grow wild at Mt. Rokko and is the official flower of Kobe City.

My favorites are mountain lace-cap hydrangeas, which have delicate figure with smaller flowers and leaves.

The characteristic of hydrangeas at Mt. Rokko is soft pristine blue color influenced by its acidic soil from granites and its great temperature difference between daytime and night.  The color is called “Rokko Blue”.

 When I looked up, they looked like floating in the sea of juicy green: it was a wondrous sensation.

As a blue-color lover, I tend to take pictures of blue flowers more, but of course hydrangeas of any other color are as attractive as the blue blooms.



Do we look all right?

Some rare hydrangeas can be seen like "Shichidanka", of which rediscovery after 120 years from Edo period (1603-1868) made this flower famous.  Have a look at Full blooming Shichidanka hydrangeas at Mt. Rokko

Kobe Arboretum is Japan's largest botanical garden (142.6 ha).  Kobe City purchased an area of the Rokko Mountains close to the urban  area and planted approximately 1200 varieties of trees from each region of the world including Japan while keeping the natural forests as much as possible. It was opened in 1940.
Natural forest in summer
Autumn (Glorious Mandala of autumn at Mt. Rokko)
This is my all season favorite Hase-ike Pond.

Around the pond, I found a froglet with only a teeny tail stub.
Hello, grasshopper!  What’s your name?
 The white camellia-like flower is Stewartia pseudocamellia, or Japanese Stewartia.  娑羅樹 (shara-no-ki)) in Japanese has just started blooming.

White petals and orange anthers
 Japanese Stewartia blooms high above.
Can you spot two white flowers among the foliage in the photo below?

While walking along the Metasequoia avenue leading to the parking lot,
I felt like that green essence was dripping on me.

See you next year at the Rokko Mountains!