Friday, May 18, 2012

Memories of Grandmother and kakitsubata iris

the Main Hall of the temple

Chogaku-ji (長岳寺)Temple is located on Yamanobe-no-Michi Trail, Japan's oldest recorded road from Yanagimoto to Miwa.  It is said to have been founded in 824 by Kobo Daishi (弘法大師). 

I have been familiar with the temple, as it is in Yanagimoto-cho where my husband’s grandmother lived.  I remember eating somen noodle with her at the temple when my husband first introduced me to her.  She lived a long life up to 105. What was amazing about her was she could chant the Heart Sutra by heart while doing "seiza", Japanese way of formal sitting, even after she turned 100.  At 90, she started visiting the local library once a week where she borrowed several books to read for the week.  Though a bright young student, she was unable to continue her education; as she was the fourth of nine children, she had to help around the house. She devoured reading books as if restoring her dream of youth. While reading, her heart soared free, journeying into foreign lands, falling in love with the heroes, or learning sacred truth.  There were so much for her to learn from books.  These, and other facts, were reported in NHK documentary program, 百歳バンザイ! in which she featured as one of perky centenarians, and a book of the same title; she was then 101.

She was a person like "kakitsubata ",or Iris laevigata, beautiful and upright both in posture and behavior.  Purple color suited her perfectly and she looked most refined in her purple kimono or clothes.  The pond of Chogaku-ji is noted for its kakitsubata flowers in early May.

Japanese snowball/大手毬

There is a Japanese proverb which goes “Which is ayame, which is kakitsubata?”   This proverb is used to describe metaphorically the difficulty in choosing between the two equally beautiful or excellent things.  It’s difficult to tell the two flowers apart, but simply put, ayame has a net pattern at the base of its petals, and kakitsubata has a white color.

Kakitsubata, or Iris laevigata

The base of the Kakitusbata petal is white.
They bloom on wet land.

Ayame, or Iris sanguinea, in my garden

As you see in the photo above, Ayame has mesh pattern at the base of the petals. 


  1. Hello Yoko:
    What an amazing woman your husband's grandmother must have been and how wonderful to live to the incredible age of 105. Do people when they reach a hundred in Japan receive a card from the Emperor as they do from the Queen in the United Kingdom?

    We have never seen Iris growing in such a way before. An absolutely magnificent sight.

  2. What a truly amazing women your husband's grandmother was. It is no wonder that you remember her so well, and have vividly described her here.
    The Iris laevigata are really beautiful and you have captured them twice with their reflections - lovely.

  3. Yoko, your husband's grandmother sounds like a national treasure. A beautiful tribute and post. I wish you had included a photo of her in her purple kimono.
    You yourself must have a very beautiful soul to capture so much of the beauty around you.

  4. 実は私も今週長岳寺に行ってきました。ツツジはもうなかったけど、カキツバタはまだ咲いていました。私の撮ったのとはやはり違うなぁと思ってしまいます。特に2番目と最後の写真がが好きです。11月にオープンされる地獄絵も昨年見てきました。実際に見ると、思っていたほどのおどろおどろしさは感じられず、住職の説法されるように現代の世界の方が余程おどろおどろしいのかも知れませんね。

  5. 何度聞いてもあやめ、菖蒲、杜若の区別難しいです。あやめは語感が一番日本種らしいですね。初夏の色合いに染まった池の面の美しいこと!

  6. such beautiful scenes. the water reflections are perfect. your description of your husband's grandmother are wonderful, too. what a great woman.

  7. Jane and Lance – My grandmother (my husband’s is also mine) received a letter of commendation for longevity and a gift from then Prime Minister as well as from Nara Prefectural governor and Yanagimoto-cho mayor. Then Prime Minister was a popular and maverick Mr. Koizumi who was in office for six years much longer than other short-lived Japanese PMs.

    arija – I included the photo of her at the age of 100, though she is not dressed in purple but indigo kimono.

  8. Very nice the last photo...And all the others...seems to me a slice of paradise! There is darkness...The if I could feel it...

  9. What a beautiful lady your husband's grandmother was. And to live to the amazing age of 105. She was a very wise woman!
    The Iris are lovely. The colour of the sky!

  10. Thank you Yoko. What a lovely lady she is! Which one is you ?

  11. Living to 105 is awesome and reading books is fun whenever you grow.
    I would like to read books for many years.

  12. una vida longeva la de tu abuela,es bueno tenerlos ,yo no tuve la suerte
    un beso

  13. What a wonderful story about your grandmother with parallels to the iris. Beautful pictures, thank you for sharing.

  14. Your grandma's shot takes the cake.
    She is a story!

  15. Hi Yoko

    Beautiful photos of grandmother, 105 wow that is amazing.

    I love all your photos.

    I just popped by to say hello
    and hope that you are well.

    Have a great weekend.
    Relax and enjoy

    x Fiona

  16. Hi Yoko
    I enjoy reading about your husband's grandmother. And what lovely photos.
    :) Nice post.


  17. Wonderful post this, what a lovely tribute you have given to your grandmother through your words. She sounds like she was a spirited lady enthusiastic to learn in life, reminds me of my own grandfather...

  18. What a wonderful photo at the end … the attractive family grouping reminds me of the pretty irises in the other pictures. And what an amazing story about your husband’s grandmother! We can learn much from her habits. Becoming an avid reader at the age of 90 gave her a fresh start in life and added to her longevity, no doubt. It seems her road was not only long but very well traveled. :)

  19. stardustさん、こんにちわ。




  20. Hello Yoko, To be remembered so lovingly and respectfully is a fine tribute to your husband's grandmother. Her poise and gracefulness like the lovely Iris inspired admiration. I had a friend who died several weeks ago at age 103. She remained sharp of mind and wit until her demise - an inspiration to those who knew her. Your pictures are likewise graceful and reflective.

  21. Oh, what a great tribute to your grandmother-in-law! The memory about her associated with Kakitsubata is the treasure in your heart.
    I find there are so many temples and sites in Nara which I have not yet enjoyed.
    Beauty of purple is vivid and aesthetic!

  22. 奈良には美しい花をさかせるお寺が多くありますね。長岳寺のかきつばたは大群で、魅惑的な青紫ですね。一度訪れてみたいです。5番目の写真は、水面にうつってるんですね。

  23. That is who I had picked Yoko. I just knew it had to be you because of the beauty of the soul shining through.

    XOX . . Ārija

  24. 105, and she loved books? What a wonderful woman and what a lovely tribute!

    Kakitsubata? I didn't know that's what you call these flowers. There's so much to learn. I hope I can follow your husband's grandmother's example and never stop learning! ^^

  25. Yoko - what a beautiful homage to your husband's grandmother! This is (was) an incredible woman, a role model, so very inspiring and worthy of emulation! At the age of 100 years she still looks very pretty and much younger!
    I am excited about the wonderful irises you show us, but I am even more excited about this stunning woman - I have great admiration for her! Thank you so much for introducing her to us - may she rest in eternal peace...

  26. What a wonderful story! It sounds like she made each day count and that's a great message for everyone. Your pictures are lovely....I especially love the new set of blossoms around the garden. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  27. I admire yours and your husband's grandmother. Being so happy about reading at the age of 100. I have often thought: how long time can I go on reading? And now I see there is really something to live up to.

    Your photos are absolutely brilliant. I can keep on looking at them again and again.

    Have a nice Sunday.
    Grethe ´)

  28. What a wonderful tribute to your husband's mother in law, she sound like a remarcable lady, and what a lovely photo of her with her grandchildren!

    The irises are stunning, thanks for sharing :)

    Have a great new week, Yoko :)

  29. Truly exquisite photos, Yoko! Loved the reflecting colors on the water and your reflections of your husband's dear grandmother's life.

    I have iris in my garden similar to the ones you picture in the Manyo Botanical Garden. Mine are known as Japanese Iris, they were tranplanted here from my mother-in-law's garden years ago! I love them! I love your blog too!☺

  30. I can't think of a better tribute to your grandmother than this lovely post! Your words are thoughtful, loving -and your photos so beautiful.

  31. What a great lady she was...all pictures are so good...

  32. What a wonderful story of your husband's grandmother - certainly someone to emulate. Your photographs are wonderful. What a serene place to wander and enjoy the beauty!

  33. dear Yoko, thank you for these beautiful flowers+their fantastic+happy making colours, I simply adore the iris!

    and the family pic is so beautiful and full with good memories, the grandmas are always someone special in ones life!

    domo arigato for your visits+words, they are much appreciated! happy new week from me...

  34. Hi Yoko, ehh here a man happy with your photographs are wonderful, I love your garden, beautiful tribute to your grandmother..
    nice story.


  35. Dear Yoko,
    Reading about your grandmother's life I've learnt that with patience and determination it's never too late to start living our dream. Not even when we're almost 100 years old... She must have been quite a women, strong and reliant on life's deep meaning!
    It's a special lesson for us, those living in a world of consumption, running after easy gains, always eager to change things, hoping they will fill the void inside.

    I think one of life's blessings is that beautiful people continue to touch our existence long after they're gone. And I would add that only a beautiful, sensible soul could still encounter her grandmother in every Iris flower brought by springtime...

    In Romania we have a saying "those who don't have elders (or grandparents), they should buy them" which emphasizes precisely this beauty, good sense and discretion of theirs that only come from a life fully embraced with all its joys and hard times put together.

  36. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful lady. And, what a long and glorious life she must have had. Such a nice post. The shots of the eclipse are amazing--what a spectacular event to witness. Your photos are always beautiful. How is your "newly married" daughter getting along? Mickie :)

  37. Lovely post.
    Wonderful story about your husband's grandmother.
    Great series of beautiful shots, love all of them.
    The Iris sanguinea in your garden is stunning. I've never seen it before.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Wish you a wonderful week.

  38. Hello, stardust.

     Your heartwarming works fascinates my heart.

     Thank you for your kindness.
     And i pray for you and yours peace.

    Have a good new-week. ruma ❃

  39. Hello, Yoko!
    What a wonderful story! What a beautiful lady your husband's grandmother! Thank you for sharing!
    Irises are my favourite flowers and yours look beautiful! Very enchanting pictures...

  40. Hello Yoko,
    I have just discovered your wonderful nature blog because of my teacher friend Chris in Tucson, Arizona.
    I have a garden and nature blog in Houston, Texas. I hope you can visit soon. I am a schoolteacher of elementary students.
    I like how you mix nature photographs, stories, and things about your family. Congratulations on your grandmother's 100th birthday.
    Best Regards and a warm welcome to my garden blog in Texas,

  41. Really wonderful .... really i like your captures .... very nice to join with u.. as a photography lover... thank u friend...


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