Saturday, April 7, 2018

White Egret in the sea of Sakura

The severity of winter doesn’t affect the blooming time of Sakura (Cherry blossoms).  
The buds of Sakura get into sleep in summer right after birth, get awake by the chill air of winter 
and wait for warm air over 15 degrees C to open.  
This season, too early visit of winter and the sudden warming up from the bitter cold followed by the unseasonable warm days
made Sakura bloom much earlier than usual.

When Somei-yoshino, the most widely planted flowering cherry trees in Japan,
were in full bloom,
I enjoyed "hanami" (cherry blossom viewing) stroll at Himeji Castle,
aka White Egret Castle.
The Castle looked like floating over the pink clouds like a white egret with spreading wings.

National Treasure, UNESCO World Heritage site
Current structure from the 17th century

Sangoku-bori Moat
 Himeji Castle is a massively but gracefully fortified castle which was never attacked. 
From the Hishi Gate to the main keep, the labyrinth-like approach leads through multiple gates, walled paths, and baileys,
 with the purpose to slow down and expose attacking forces. 
At the heart of the complex stands the main keep, a six story wooden structure plastered white. 
It is one of only a handful of castle keeps in Japan featuring wing buildings, 
adding both beauty and complexity to its appearance.

Looking up the main Keep from the Hon-maru Bailey (1st Bailey)

The view from the Nishino-maru Garden

Kesho-yagura Tower and a part of Long Connecting Corridor
Soft breeze stirs pale-pink snow of petals from the branches.
Sakura has the most beautiful way of saying farewell.

The northern part surrounding the castle is covered with virgin forests
and people are sparse in the quieter atmosphere unlike the southern side with the Otemon gate.

Camellias and Sakura

Sakura with the backdrop of Camellia

Himeji Shrine
A moat runs into the neighboring zoo on the eastern grounds.

The view of the main keep seen from one place of the zoo

"Hanami" boat on the outer moat

Somei-yoshino Sakura was too fleeting this year due to the consecutive sunny and warm days.
In my neighborhood, the blossoms are almost over and the fresh leaves have appeared.
Somei-yoshino Sakura front is going north, dying Japanese archipelago pink.

More about Himeji Castle; A White Egret standing in the Himeji plain.

Linked to Weekend Reflections
Mosaic Monday

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ume blossoms at Tsukigase Ume Valley and Hillside

Tsukigase Ume Valley is historically famous for its scenic beauty.
There are about 10000 Ume (Prunus mume) trees on the hillsides
and along the V-shaped valley where the Nabari River runs.
It was designated one of the first scenic beauties in 1922 
together with Nara Park and Kenroku-en, Kanazawa.

In February when most trees are still bare without leaves or buds,
the buds of early-blooming come out enduring the shivering cold.

The pale wintry landscape looks to be brightened up soon with the flowers.

When it warms up a little, they start to bloom in mass.
In March, they are at their best as if to say “Winter's over”.

"Little Plum Blossom of Hill Garden" (山園小梅) by Lin bu  (林逋

When everything has faded they alone shine forth,
encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens.
Their scattered shadows fall lightly on clear water,
their subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk.
Snowbirds look again before they land,
butterflies would faint if they but knew.
Thankfully I can flirt in whispered verse,
I don't need a sounding board or wine cup.

The impression of the hillside with bursting flowers, however, is quite different from 
the solitary hill of the poem.

After the record cold winter, temperatures quickened to warm up 
like late April last week.
Three cold days and four warm days are taking turns,
which is the typical weather at this time of year.

Having lunch or tea at the balconies over the cliff is the time of bliss.

But the colors and fragrance of Ume in the bracing cold air and warmer sunshine
is the best of all. 

Ume blossoms and White Eye

School year ends with Ume blossoms in Japan.
The boy Y (4-year-10-month) is going to be in the second year of the kindergarten in April. 
Like the origami paper boy he made with his mother,
he'll be smiling in the full arrival of spring soon.

Y and the origami-paper boy look alike. Don't they?

Linked to Mosaic Monday
Our World Tuesday

Monday, February 26, 2018

Warmth and joy in the coldest winter in half a century

Hello, dear my Friends!  
It’s been a long time since I posted the last post. 
Then again it also feels like only yesterday as I write now. 
Time is a magical thing. 
So belated, but I hope you welcomed in a happy New Year 2018.

In my part of the world, this winter season has been the coldest in a long time.
When the cold loosened its grip a little, I went to Hannyaji Temple, 
where Narcissus were blooming around Stone Buddhist Statues 
clean and fragrant.  
They flower as winter turns into spring.  

As you might know, the disruption in the Polar Jet Stream brought snowfall
even into Florida and to Japanese southern parts.
Outrageous 4 meters high snow was recorded in a region along the coast of the Sea of Japan.
What matters to me is not how cold but how "long" the cold has lasted
with temperatures hovering between -3 to 4 degrees C.
There were many days when my garden was covered with frost in the morning
 since mid-December which is like late autumn usually.

As I have written every year, it rarely snows in Nara no matter how cold it is.
However the city was blanketed in snow a couple of times.
These photos are the first snowfall of the season which soon melted into rain.

February 1st

More wonder of nature due to the unusual cold wave.

Feb. 12th
My fourth grandchild, M, was born in such a record cold winter. 
About one month later her birth, we celebrated her “Omiyamairi” at Kasuga Grand Shrine, 
the first visit to shrine to pray for the baby’s healthy growth and prosperous future.  
We were so fortunate that the day was one of the few warmer days.

Mid-December to late January

As it is nearing to March, temperatures have come to rise over 10 from time to time.
Ume blossoms, the floral harbinger of spring, started blooming one after another.

Happy with the fresh feel of the bracing cold air in sunshine.

Narcissus in the sunshine with the backdrop of early-blooming pink Ume blossoms.