Monday, October 4, 2010

Strolling around Asuka

Asuka is a cradle of Japanese culture.  Buddhism first flourished here right after its entry from India via China and Korea.  The imperial capital of Japan in its heyday (538-710) is now underground, while some ruins and relics have been excavated.

Asuka is well known for the terraced rice paddies.  The scenery of paddies is beautiful especially in summer when it is lush green filled with water and in autumn when it is yellow ready for reaping. 

Red cluster amaryllis, or spider lilies, make a spectacular borders between the paddies and the footpaths.  They started blooming two weeks later than usual due to intense summer heat of this year. 

They are called "higanbana" in Japanese, for they are the flowers (hana) which usually bloom around the autumn equinox day (higan).  It is a custom for the Japanese to pay a visit to ancestors' grave during spring and autumn equinoctial week.  In autumn, they bloom at the gate or in the precinct of temples as if welcoming visitors.

Why are they often at the graveyard or on the narrow paths between the paddies in Japan?   Because the bulbs contain a toxic agent against the pest and the stem contains edible proteins useful in case of poor harvest.  They are also called "manjushage" which is named after a red flower in the Buddha's Pure Land.  In spite of the naming from the Buddhism sutra,  I feel more passionate beauty than soothing beauty in this flower when the flowers are red.  There are also white ones.

You can't see flowers and leaves at the same time.  After flowering ends, green leaves appear and last till next spring.

Tachibana-dera is one of seven temples established by Prince Shotoku and is regarded as his birth place.  At its foundation in the 8th century, it had 66 halls in its precinct.  Now all that remains is the foundation stones of the pagoda and a couple of buildings.

Pink and white fuyo, or cotton roses, were still blooming. 

DigiBook about Tachibana-dera)

There are many mysterious stone objects in Asuka.  This is one of such stone objects made in Asuka period.  The stone is carved with two human faces expressing good and evil   existing inside human nature. 

evil (left side)
good (right side)

Scarecrow contest was held there.  They are more like lifesize dolls than scarecrows.  I wonder how this couple could scare crows?  They looked more tender and affectionate under the rosy hue of evening sky.   It will be fine tomorrow.


  1. Great pictures, and text. I hope this blog gets the attention of English-speaking visitors to Japan, and those just visiting digitally.

  2. Stardust.
    Thank you for interesting many photos.
    I often stroll around rice paddies, looking for scarecrows. They look shabby, but withstand the changeable and severe weather during the rice season.
    Scarecrows made by farmers remind me of farmer’s prayers for their rich harvest.

    However, it is first time for me to see this cute scarecrow! got it! It is fun that Scarecrow contest was held.

  3. Hi, marc. I'll be happy if English-speaking tourists feel like having a trip to Asuka to see my post. This is Asuka Village official homepage

    Redrose, you can see other scarecrows here.

  4. Asuka's terraced rice paddies are very beautiful.And beautiful rice paddies are fringed with vivid red spider lilies. The scene like this was still left,wasn't it? When I was child,I could see these much. We could smell that farmers were burning chaffs.I feel nostalgia.

  5. Hello Stardust

    It is very nice to meet you. Both Wanda and Barb have told me about your blog. It is a pleasure to come and read your excellent English in such interesting stories.
    I am looking forward to my next visit to Japan in November when our daughter and husband will have their first baby - our first grandchild...its such an exciting time...My daughter lives in Nakano, Tokyo.
    I had a wonderful time two years ago walking the Nakasendo Highway...and learned so much history while admiring the scenery.
    I look forward to further chats with you.

    Happy days

  6. The photos of the terraced rice paddies with the misty mountains beyond are breathtaking. I have received amaryllis bulbs as gifts from friends in winter. When they bloom, they fill my heart with a longing for spring. Those scarecrows are not very scary!

  7. thank you for wonderful blog and thank you sooooooooooooooo much for sharing these soothing tranquil views of your land dear friend!


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