Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hokke-ji Temple in reminiscence of ancient Japanese Mother Teresa

Tile of roof made in the shape of chrysanthemum is symbol of Japanese Imperial family.
Founded as a nunnery in 745 by Empress Komyo, Hokke-ji Temple is situated in the west Nara City.  It was built on the grounds where previously her father Fujiwara no Fuhito's mansion stood. “ According to records kept by the temple, the initial construction went on until around 782. The temple once had a large complex with several halls and gates, and two pagodas. Hokke-ji was heavily damaged in the fierce Siege of Nara, in 1180. In spite of reconstructions in the 12th and 13th centuries, the complex was again affected by civil conflicts during the Sengoku period. The current main hall, bell tower and the south gate are reconstructions of the 16th century.” (Wikipedia)

South Gate

Empress Komyo (701-760), the wife of Emperor Shomu (701-756), built the first Japanese national hospital, Seyakuin (施薬院) as well as the charity home for the poor, Hidenin (悲田院) in Nara. Japanese mythology tells Empress Komyo involved herself in treatments of patients. She did not limit the national hospital only to imperial family or aristocrats. Anybody sick despite their social class could use the hospital.
Legend has said that “one day, Empress Komyo was engaging in patients treatment in the national hospital. An old man with Hansen's disease came to her. Empress Komyo tried to clean his body, but she could not clean all pus from his wounds. Empress Komyo started to suck his pus with her mouth for cleaning. Suddenly the old leper changed his appearance. He was one of Buddha's messengers, Nyo-Rai. He told her Buddhism would protect her country and people so that her people would enjoy prosperity.

“浴室 Karafuro”, an ancient bath building, with two bathrooms for steamed bath,
was originally built by Empress Komyo and opened to the public.
Repair work was completed after being dismantled half in July, 2003.
The main statue of the worship is Eleven-headed Kannon which is thought to be modeled after Empress Komyo. The mercy of the statue shines through as her name Ko-myo means “light and brightness”.
image via Wikipedia

Here you are at Karaku-en Garden, one of the two gardens of Hokke-ji Temple, on the east side of the precinct.

There are about one hundred camellias and various many other plants blooming from season to season.



 I felt that the garden was more like British cottage garden than traditional Japanese one.


万作 Hamamelis japonica, or Japanese witch hazel

Leaving Karaku-en, now it feels like something traditional Japanese with thatched roof, moss, maple trees, a stone lantern, Japanese roof tiles, and so on.

Genpei Peach, 源平桃

Main Hall
On the west side of the Main Hall, there is another garden designated as National Scenic Beauty (国史跡名勝庭園).  As enough time was not left for me to explore, here are only two scenes I saw near the entrance. 

In the overcast morning on weekday, I almost monopolized the gardens.  I felt there was something lonely yet graceful and dignified about the gardens.  My thoughts of the women who discarded this earthly world to become a nun for some reason might have been reflected in my feeling.


Empress Komyo's attitude toward the weak, the miserable, and the dying would be compared to that of Mother Teresa toward, according to her words, the unwanted, the unloved, and the forgotten by everybody.  While there is little information about the Empress Komyo, there is much more about Mother Teresa.  

- A few of my favorite quotes -

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

"Show kindness through your face, your eyes, your smile and through the warmth of your greetings. You must bear a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well."

"We do not have to do great things, only small things with great love. We do not have to be extraordinary in any way, I can do what you can't and you can do what I can't. Together we can do something beautiful for God."
These photos were taken in April, 2013.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Princess Saho dyes Nara City pink

There are many rivers and canals lined up with numerous "sakura" (cherry tree) in Japan.
  The Saho River is one of them meandering gently through Nara City.

Princess Saho is believed to live in the Saho Mountain which is located to the east of Heijyo-kyo, the ancient capital of Japan in Nara.  According to the Chinese theory of five elements (五行説), spring is in the east. Princess Saho is a goddess of spring, a young woman clad in a soft pale pink spring haze.  She is good at dyeing and dyes hills and fields in spring colors.

Incidentally, autumn is in the west, and the goddess of autumn is called Princess Tatsuta because there is Tatsutain Mountain to the west of Heijokyo .  Princess Tatsuta is good at needlework and she changes hills and fields to the autumn-tinted brocades.

New buds of sakura get into sleep right after they are born in summer, get awake by the cold in winter, and start to swell to open when Princess Saho fly on the wind from the east.  The severity of winter doesn't affect the blooming time of sakura but the time when warm east wind starts to blow does. 

Princess Saho is personification of changing landscape from withered mountains and fields to richly variegated by rain and dyed in verdure and spring flowers.  Many people are forgetting her name while living in the city. 
The roads along the Saho make it a breathtaking place for a springtime stroll.  Yesterday I walked along the river from Nara Prefecture Library and Information Center (奈良県立図書情報館) to the upstream JR Line.

Before starting to walk, I was tempted by sweets and coffee for 500 yen.
柚子Yuzu (small citrus fruit) chiffon cake & ice cream
The sakura-lined paths on both sides of the river stretch about five kilometers.
I walked north, feeling warm sunlight on my back.

Reflection always fascinates me.

You can feel more wind by "Mamachari" riding. 
Mt. Wakakusa is seen from the Omiya Bridge.
Saho Elementary School will welcome new pupils in a week.

People were having a rest in the dappled shadow on the riverbed.
Toward the upstream, there are seen various different varieties of sakura from Somei-yoshino.

Somei-yoshino variety is noted for the pale pink petals.


I took this picture while waiting for the gate of the railroad crossing to open.

JR line

Princess Saho in the puddle of the asphalted path?
Strolling around in pink landscape would surely make you feel in the pink.
I wish peace on earth and in your mind.
- From the Land of Sakura -