Friday, February 3, 2012

The Temple of Peonies in winter

Hase-dera Temple dates back to 686.  It is located on the mountainside of Sakurai City in Nara Prefecture, an hour drive from my house in Nara City.  It is a beautiful place in all seasons: early spring with cherry trees, spring with peonies, early summer with fresh greenery and then hydrangeas, autumn with brilliant maple leaves, and winter with dusting of snow, and .....


Winter peonies! 
They are usually covered with straw-hat in order to avoid frost and snow. 

The wooden roofed corridors are composed of 399 steps which lead people to the Main Hall.  This is one of the longest corridors of this type in Japan.  The corridor was first built in 1039: today's dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1868).  There are many temple facilities alongside the staircases. 

In May, many peonies are in bloom on both sides of the corridor.

last May

last week
Now in the coldest period of the year, what catches people's eyes are red berries of nandina or coralberry.

a hint of yellow in winter

spring greenery

The Main Hall (National Treasure, reconstructed in 1650) is one of the largest wooden structures and has a large overhanging wooden veranda similar to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple (Kyoto).

There is a small door at the back of the Main Hall.  The hazy pinkish bare trees are cherry trees.  Do you know bare twigs of cherry trees have a tint of pink color?   Some people dye cloth with the twigs right before flowers bloom, as the pale soft pink color is contained in them.   (See here.)


Main Hall's veranda is the best spot to see the Five Storied Pagoda, which was built in 1954 at the north site of the original Three Storied Pagoda. 

The precinct was sunk into the stillness with few visitors in the very cold weekday morning in January.   


When spring comes, I'll report about peonies and how this temple looks.  There are 7000 peonies of 150 varieties. 

When snow comes down in large flakes,  we call it  "botan-yuki", or "peony-snow".  Japan is enveloped in the coldest wave in 20 years.  It is snowing hard in the northern parts and along the seacoast of the Japan Sea, but it hasn't snowed yet in my region except fluffy snowflakes blown from the blue sky so far.


  1. Zima niestety nie jest łaskawa obecnie.U nas też są mrozy i śnieg. Mam nadzieje, że zabezpieczenie wspaniałych piwonii jest wystarczające. Zaprowadziłaś mnie do wspaniałego i innego niż u nas miejsca. Inna przede wszystkim zabudowa. Pagoda śliczna. Wspaniałe zdjęcia. Pozdrawiam. *** Unfortunately, winter is not kind at present. You also are frost and snow. I hope that wonderful peony protection is sufficient. You lead me to the wonderful and different than in our place. Another first of all buildings. Pagoda pretty. Great pictures. Yours.

  2. Those straw hats for protection are so cute as well as beautiful. The colorful peonies are so fresh! Wonderful captures from different seasons.
    The temple also looks very serene and quiet, perfect for a getaway from the noise of the city.
    Have a wonderful weekend:)

  3. Smukke billeder.
    Tak for kigget.
    Jeg kom bare lige forbi.

  4. What a beautiful place.
    I noticed that the corridor and torii aren't red. I usually think them red but I found that some of them are stone or white.
    It's interesting.

  5. Beautiful is an overused word but it certainly applies to this temple. Great photos.

  6. Hi,Stardust.


  7. I love the photos, this is truly a beautiful place with an abundance of flowers. It is interesting to see the different appearances in winter and spring.
    And the buildings are amazing!

    Lovely peonies, and I have never seen such straw hats for flowers. It looks nice :)

    Wishing you a nice weekend!
    Greetings, Hilde.

  8. Hello Yoko:
    peonies are amongst our favourite flowers. They are so deliciously blowsy and voluptuous with such delicate pastel shades. We love the idea of them having straw hats for protection, such a sweet touch!

    This temple and its surroundings look to be serenely beautiful and how marvellous to visit in the winter when one is almost alone in the corridors. An enchanted place with a sense that time has really stood still over the centuries.

  9. To see 7000 peonies in one place sounds heavenly in a garden. But it is perhaps not quite as lovely when real “peony-snow" is falling heavily from the skies. Sounds like you are finding beauty in what seems to be an unusually cold winter. You have shown that the subtle colors of winter can be just as magical as the bright colors of spring. Thanks as always, stardust, for sharing your world. Hope your snow stays fluffy and soft. :)

  10. I love the sight of these marvelous
    peonies under their straw hats! What a blessing having such wonderful flowers in the middle of winter.
    Seeing them made my day as it is so cold here! Thanks Yoko! :)

  11. the little huts for the peonies are really neat! such a beautiful place!

  12. Winter or spring, everything about and around this Temple invites to peaceful walks and meditation. The old carved wood of the columns on the corridor had witnessed so many stories... I'm sure it can still listen to another one, and another, and another...
    Just sit down, next to these strong and splendid peonies, and the Temple with the forest around will offer a perfect hat for awhile, just enough to help one pass through harsh moments.

    7000 bloomed peonies must be like a fairy tale! We don't have anything like this around here, but we are expecting another "botan-yuki" tonight. :-)

    Have a happy weekend, Yoko, with as little frost as possible!

  13. Such beauty, so nicely presented. Thank you for taking us along. You live near such wonderful places.

  14. Hallo Yoko,
    The peonies are gorgeous. Overhere winter came in, after a period I thought springtime was already there.
    -18 is forecasted for tonight and a trafficjam this evening because of heavy snow falling. Brrrr. Can't wait till spring really arrives.
    Warm wishes from Holland

  15. The winter peonies wearing their straw hats make me smile, Yoko! I would love to climb those steps - especially when the peonies bloom on each side. Keep warm!

  16. The winter peonies are gorgoues, love their straw hats!
    Great series of beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing this beautiful place.
    Love to see the peonies in springtime.
    Have a great weekend and stay warm.
    Greetings Mette

  17. stardustさん、こんにちわ。





  18. Hi Yoko-san,
    I have never heard of winter peonies and the little straw hats that gardeners lovingly crafts on each plant is amazing. Thank you for a lovely post...

  19. どれをとっても余情あふれる長谷寺がとらえられていて美しいです。特に一枚目のボタン、それに五重塔の写真いいですね。

  20. 柔らかな花弁に愛らしい色。実に見事な牡丹ですね。優しい愛情に守ら手育った花にもまた優しさが満ち満ちていますね。それらはどんな花よりも古都の風景に似合うようです。美しい風景をありがとうございます。

  21. Beautiful pictures. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers, they are so showy and have a beautiful scent. I was interested to see the little houses over the peonies. Hopefully the heavy snow won't come in your direction.

  22. Can I use the word "beautiful" too? Well, BEAUTIFUL! I wonder if any of our modern buildings will get the same response in a century or two.

  23. I was surprised that peony's flowers come out in cold winter.
    The red five-storied pagoda stand out by white trees like with hoarfrost. Nice catch! and the long corridor,too.
    Keep warm!

  24. This time of the year, there are not so many flowers which please our eye, but how beautiful peonies are!! And I think these photos are ones of masterpieces of yours.
    Especially I love the photo of the lovely five-story pagoda. These colors are so nostalgic and look the essence of Japanese aesthetic sense. Beautiful red and winter colors!!
    I have not been to this temple yet. I hope to visit it!

  25. I’d love to visit a garden with 150 varieties of peonies – how wonderful! This is a temple with a garden for all seasons. Your pictures are lovely.

  26. Every time I come here, I leave speechless due to the beautiful photos, your artistry and your skill in portraying the beautiful traditions of your country.

    We have had lots of peony snow here!

  27. 菰をかぶった牡丹の花、雪ん子みたいで可愛い!ずっと前に主人の母と石光寺(だったと思います)で観ました。長谷寺も母との思い出があります。雰囲気のある良い写真の数々ありがとうございます。

  28. so beautiful peonies ! love them : )

    have a nice evening.

    regards from Berit

  29. stunning, really stunning!

    the temple is truly impressive!

  30. In all seasons, places like this breathe new life into all who come with open heart and mind and I am somehow more human by virtue of the beauty of the peonies, and I am calmer by virtue of the corridors and the pagodas, and I am more aware of my surroundings, my connection with the animals and the plants, my need to breathe deeper of what this place has to offer.

    Thank you.

  31. I love the straw hats. Here there are no outdoors flowers, just snow, though not as much as most years. This place looks so peaceful.

  32. The peonies under their straw hats are a treat for eyes in winter! They have the same kind of winter peonies at Kamakura, below the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, around the Genji-ike. We used to go and walk around the pond in the small garden, where squirels would visit in winter...but not now when it is too cold to put your nose outside!
    I love your photos! Very beautiful takes, they make your postings most attractive!

  33. Japanese people seem to be able to create beauty at any time and in any place. It must be because you have an eye for beauty that we lack. We have beautiful things during many individual seasons but at other times the places are bare and lifeless. Including art and statuary helps to give backbone to a garden,

  34. I love peonies and their fragrance, they are my favourite flowers, in fact. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos, I have liked also the photos of the temple, it is so magnificient. Thanks Yoko again and my warmest regards for you,

  35. Una belleza las fotografías, el lugar misterioso, mágico, lleno de encanto…en primavera tiene que ser una explosión de color y vida.
    Gracias por tan bello blog, una delicia para los sentidos.

    Feliz semana. Un cordial saludo

  36. My deerest friend Yoko
    7000 Peonies!!!!!!
    And what orizinal hats!!!!
    Your photos and your country are wonderful!!!
    Thank you for so interesting tour!!
    Many greetings a kisses

  37. I love visiting your blog. It's very relaxing and educational for me. Each detail that you show is a special touch from Japanese culture. Thank you for staying in touch throughout this time.

  38. 先日はコメント頂きながら、表示でない事態となった件、どうやらコメント設定欄に自ら手を加えた為、さまざまな絡みで不安定になりスパムと見なされているようです。また再度起こる可能性もありますので、その際はどうぞお気を悪くなさらないでくださいね。私もここの所bloggerの方へのコメントの際、再三パスワード入力を求められるトラブルに頭を悩ませながらも、状況を見ている次第です。ヤレヤレ |;-_-|=3

  39. Con gusto... sería una vagabunda en esos bellos lugares... Bss

  40. As I opened this post I felt I was walking into a dream.
    A colored dream from one of my favorite flowers.
    The peony is a beautiful flower!
    Beautiful place.

  41. This is such a beautiful temple. It is so strange and quaint to see the peonies wearing straw hats. This extra effort is worth keeping them in pristine condition for longer enjoyment.


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