Friday, October 17, 2014

Moody weather at Heijyo Palace Site

Heijyo Palace Site is the place where Heijyokyo, the ancient capital of Nara, was located about 1300 years ago.  After archaeological research was over, some of the excavated remains were returned to the underground to ensure their conservation while some others are exhibited at the Heijyo Palace Museum. Now it is a vast wild grass field with three reconstructed structures including 朱雀門 Suzaku-mon Gate, 東院庭園To-in Garden, and 大極殿 Daigokuden, which stand far apart from each other in the spacious field.
I walked around the old palace site free and comfortable last week,
feeling the cool and crisp air and listening to the chorus of the insects.
Daigokuden, or Audience Hall

Under the field of vast wild grasses, all that remains is ancient dreams.


I came across a big fallen tree tangled by the broken branches of other tree.
I don't know when and why this tree fell down....maybe because of the typhoon No. 18?
(I went there before the typhoon No. 19.)
When I passed by this tree in April, it was standing tall and proud.

In the ditch

The weather got unnerving rapidly.

It got darker and darker with louder sound of wind.
The moment I thought it was going to rain, it started raining.
I put my camera in the backpack and sheltered myself by a small collapsible parasol.

However, the weather never stays the same for long.
The rain was short-lived and when I was leaving the old palace site, the Audience Hall was
enveloped in the rosy glow of the evening.


- A little more about the Heijyo Palace Site -

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. When the capital was moved from Nara to the new capital in 784, large part of the city was abandoned and the major buildings were dismantled and transferred to the new place. Gradually being used as rice paddies, the ancient Nara Palace lay quietly under the rice paddies for more than 1200 years. It was 1852 when a local official realized that the footpaths of the square rice paddies were traces of the 8th century grid system of the ancient capital. Years long later in 1963, the government realized at last the historic value of the site and bought the rice paddies from the farmers. Today almost all the site is owned by the national government and is preserved as a Special National Historic Site. It was designated as World Heritage Site in 1998.

Three major structures of the former palace complex were restored according to the information gathered from excavation research so that they would look as close as possible to the originals. The construction was based on old methods, composed of several different pieces of timber without the use of nails or metal. However because of earthquake resistance according to the new building standard codes, some metal bolts and cramps wee used and concrete for the base. As an additional reinforcement, the foundation platform has a base-isolated structure, which is a contemporary technique used as an earthquake-proof measure. Daigokuden, Audience Hall, was reconstructed on the occasion of the 1300th anniversary of Nara Capital and opened to the public in April, 2010.

Major temples like Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji on the hills in the outskirts of the palace site lasted long and Nara has survived as a religious and resort site.

By the way, this is one of the most glorious skies  right after the sunset in October so far.  I took this photo from the western tip of the hill where my residential area is located. The sun set behind the Ikoma Mountains, border of Nara and Osaka.

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


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The hue of autumn at Gango-ji Temple

September is going to end. Gradual cooling, cool and crisp air, sound of wind, blooms of autumn flowers, turning colors of grasses and leaves make me realize autumn is come.  At Gango-ji Temple in Nara City, The flower of Japanese bush clover is a sign of autumn together with he blooms of Chinese bellflowers and Japanese cluster-amaryllis.

Japanese bush clover, “, Hagi" meaning literally “grass on top of 秋, autumn", would be the first autumn flower because they start flowering when summer heat still lingers.  Tiny reddish purple or pink flowers and dainty leaves sway in breeze on arching stems. They were the most loved autumn flowers since the ancient times.  In the Manyoshu Anthology compiled in the 8th century, hagi flower is the most written flower, 142 out of 4500 poems.

There is also a white-flowered variety.

They play around some of the rocks with another autumn flowers, bluish purple bellflowers. 


This another stone was a foundation stone to the Lecture Hall.
In the precinct, there are about 2500 pagodas and statues made of stone or engraved on stone. They were donated by the people to wish for peaceful death to go to the Pure Land of Buddha in the medieval period.


Higanbana, or Japanese cluster amaryllis, starts blooming around the autumn equinox.

Asuka Temple built in Asuka in 596 is Japan's oldest Buddhist Temple. When the capital was transferred to Nara, the temple was moved to the current site (Nara City) and renamed Gango-ji in 718. Traits from the ancient times you can see from outside is the beautiful roof tiles and the design of roofing.
West roof of the Main Hall
Japan's oldest tile roofing called "Gyoki-buki" is constructed by partially overwrapping roof tiles of folding-fan shape.  "Gyoki-buki" is seen on the west roof of the Main Hall (Gokuraku-bo or Paradise Hall) and 16 rows of the roof of Zen Meditation Hall back to the Main Hall.  The roofing design is unique to Tempyo period (710-784).  Can you see color difference of the tiles on the roof of long rectangular building in the photo below? 

Main Hall and Zen Meditation Hall, both are national treasures.

Left side was roofed in Kamakura period (1192-1333); right side is "Gyoki-buki" in Nara period (710-794).

A few of the remaining tiles, which are brownish color, are from the Asuka period (593-670).  They were made by Korean craftsman and are the very first tiles produced in Japan.  In the ancient times, building materials were often collected from dismantled buildings, then carried to new sites and reused to make new buildings. 

Ancient tiles made in the 6th century have gone through more than 1400 times of seasonal change from summer to autumn at this temple. 

Seasonal flower is often arranged at the tsukubai basin at this temple.

Gango-ji Temple is registered as World Heritage Site as part of Historic Monuments of the Ancient Nara together with Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple, Kasuga Shrine, Yakushi-ji Temple, Toshoda-ji Temple, Kasuga Primitive Forest, and Heyjyo Palace Site.
This post is linked to Our World.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Road bridge over Ara-ike Pond in Nara City

View in the west: five storied pagoda of Kofuku-ji beyond lush green of Chinese tallow trees and weeping willows

One of my favorite roads in Nara City, Japan, is a curving road bridge over Ara-ike Pond.  Suppose you visit Nara Park for the first time and you drive south this road, your expectation would be hightened to see the castle-like antique Nara Hotel in front or five-storied pagoda in the west.  

Do you spot road signs, "Watch out deer!"
The road is very nice for walking as a gateway to Nara Park.  You see the panoramic views from east to west over the road over the pond. In the east side, you see the deep landscape framed by the lush green of summer along the pond: Mt. Kasuga behind Mt. Mikasa beyond Ara-ike Park and the pond.
Framed view in the east

Framed view in the west

Various trees line up on both side of the road including many numbers of cherry trees, Chinese Tallow trees, and so on, so you can see different colors in each season. In early April, the area is brightened up from pale wintry colors to pink by the blooms of cheery trees.


Early April

In autumn, especially fabulous colors of Chicness Tallow trees are eye-catching.

I love this curve.
The three photos below including this were used in Spectral Colors ofChinese Tallow Tree.


When you look down on the west bank of the pond, there are many young Chinese Tallow trees.  They shine in the late afternoon glow over the darkening water.

Now you are seeing my favorite road through the green curtain of weeping willows at Ara-ike Park as well as the roofs of Nara Hotel on the opposite side of the road.

Note: There is no such a place named Nara Park officially on the map.  Nara Park is a spacious area blessed with nature where  there are many historical and cultural assets, temples and shrines including World Heritage Sites,  parks, gardens, brooks, ponds, museumas, public offices,  about 1200 roaming wild but tame deer, and so on.  How about spending your whole day by exploring Nara Park on foot?   Deer will welcome you, bowing.  I bet you'll never get tired with new discoveries, wonder, and joy one after another.

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


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.