Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hokke-ji Temple in reminiscence of ancient Japanese Mother Teresa

Tile of roof made in the shape of chrysanthemum is symbol of Japanese Imperial family.
Founded as a nunnery in 745 by Empress Komyo, Hokke-ji Temple is situated in the west Nara City.  It was built on the grounds where previously her father Fujiwara no Fuhito's mansion stood. “ According to records kept by the temple, the initial construction went on until around 782. The temple once had a large complex with several halls and gates, and two pagodas. Hokke-ji was heavily damaged in the fierce Siege of Nara, in 1180. In spite of reconstructions in the 12th and 13th centuries, the complex was again affected by civil conflicts during the Sengoku period. The current main hall, bell tower and the south gate are reconstructions of the 16th century.” (Wikipedia)

South Gate

Empress Komyo (701-760), the wife of Emperor Shomu (701-756), built the first Japanese national hospital, Seyakuin (施薬院) as well as the charity home for the poor, Hidenin (悲田院) in Nara. Japanese mythology tells Empress Komyo involved herself in treatments of patients. She did not limit the national hospital only to imperial family or aristocrats. Anybody sick despite their social class could use the hospital.

Legend has said that “one day, Empress Komyo was engaging in patients treatment in the national hospital. An old man with Hansen's disease came to her. Empress Komyo tried to clean his body, but she could not clean all pus from his wounds. Empress Komyo started to suck his pus with her mouth for cleaning. Suddenly the old leper changed his appearance. He was one of Buddha's messengers, Nyo-Rai. He told her Buddhism would protect her country and people so that her people would enjoy prosperity.

“浴室 Karafuro”, an ancient bath building, with two bathrooms for steamed bath,
was originally built by Empress Komyo and opened to the public.
Repair work was completed after being dismantled half in July, 2003.
The main statue of the worship is Eleven-headed Kannon which is thought to be modeled after Empress Komyo. The mercy of the statue shines through as her name Ko-myo means “light and brightness”.
image via Wikipedia

Here you are at Karaku-en Garden, one of the two gardens of Hokke-ji Temple, on the east side of the precinct.

There are about one hundred camellias and various many other plants blooming from season to season.

 I felt that the garden was more like British cottage garden than traditional Japanese one.

万作 Hamamelis japonica, or Japanese witch hazel

Leaving Karaku-en, now it feels like something traditional Japanese with thatched roof, moss, maple trees, a stone lantern, Japanese roof tiles, and so on.

Genpei Peach, 源平桃
Main Hall
On the west side of the Main Hall, there is another garden designated as National Scenic Beauty (国史跡名勝庭園).  As enough time was not left for me to explore, here are only two scenes I saw near the entrance. 

In the overcast morning on weekday, I almost monopolized the gardens.  I felt there was something lonely yet graceful and dignified about the gardens.  My thoughts of the women who discarded this earthly world to become a nun for some reason might have been reflected in my feeling.

Empress Komyo's attitude toward the weak, the miserable, and the dying would be compared to that of Mother Teresa toward, according to her words, the unwanted, the unloved, and the forgotten by everybody.  While there is little information about the Empress Komyo, there is much more about Mother Teresa.  

- A few of my favorite quotes -

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

"Show kindness through your face, your eyes, your smile and through the warmth of your greetings. You must bear a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well."

"We do not have to do great things, only small things with great love. We do not have to be extraordinary in any way, I can do what you can't and you can do what I can't. Together we can do something beautiful for God."
These photos were taken in April, 2013.


  1. こんばんわ!
    たまたま他の方のブログを見ていたらサイドバーに26分前にポストされたStardust English Talk が目に入りました!すごいお花の展覧会!!目を見張って楽しみました。雪柳でよく知られた法華寺ですよね?一度行ってみたいと今日英会話クラスでも話していたのです。4月に撮影されたとのことですが春爛漫ですね!Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hello Yoko:

    What an absolutely fascinating and beautifully illustrated post. How lovely the gardens are looking at present and you are very clearly taking advantage of the wonderful spring blossom. Perfection indeed.

  3. Yoko, beautiful !
    Japan is a beautiful country. I watch nhk TV and I really like it. What beautiful people, what beautiful country, great !
    Yoko, you simply rock ! This is an awesome post !

  4. I loved to read about the fascinating Komyo Empress story. All great women live forever!!! The Temple, the gardens and the flowers are a dream! Your photos like always are fabulous! I love camellias! Thanks for sharing this beauty to the world!
    Happy Day!
    Grettings from Portugal,
    Ana Love Craft

  5. beautiful temple and grounds. her legacy is a good one.

  6. This looks like a peaceful garden of quiet contemplation. If the legend of the Empress is true she sets an example of goodness, humility and kindness that is, indeed, reminiscent of Mother Teresa. Where would mankind with its never-ending struggles be without the people who work tirelessly to help the sick and needy and rebuild what has been destroyed. They bring stability and love to a precarious world.

  7. Αγαπημένη μου φίλη Yoko
    Εξαιρετικές οι φωτογραφίες σου από ένα ήσυχο και όμορφο τόπο προσευχής!
    Να είσαι ευλογημένη κι εσύ και η οικογένεια σου!
    Πόσο όμορφα είναι τα εγγόνια σου!
    Σας στέλνω μια μεγάλη αγκαλιά και πολλά φιλιά!

  8. Så intressant det du berättar Den kvinnan var en riktig välgörare för sitt folk. Det finns inte många såna idag bland oss.
    Så mycket vackert som blommar hos er nu. Här finns också någon sort av apel som blommar i stan vid en busshållplats.Finns i ett av mina inlägg
    Jag önskar dig en riktigt fin Påsk
    Kram Meta

  9. Over the centuries there have been some remarkable and selfless women who have enriched and help to make our world a better place. I have never heard of Empress Komyo before but was very happy to read about her remarkable life. When thinking of women in our country who have thought more about others than themselves, immediately for me, Florence Nightingale springs to mind.
    It is always a joy to see your images of the beautiful blossom in Japan.

  10. My snow-weary eyes are soaking up those blossoms and all the greenery, Yoko. I love walking with you in the spring! I believe this is true: "We do not have to do great things, only small things with great love." Take Care - I hope your family is doing well.

  11. What an abundance of beauty! Flowers are starting tentatively here. It is so wonderful to see yours. I enjoyed learning about Empress Komyo.

  12. Kauniit temppelit ja uskomattoman upeita kukkivia puita.

  13. What a beautiful post with history, lovely pictures and beauty !
    Thanks for sharing !

  14. A heart warming walk this, dear Yoko. What a good kind hearted lady Empress Komyo was! She may be no more with us in person today but her beautiful legend lingers on through a lovely temple, enchanting paths and delicate flowers. Thank you for bringing all this magic closer to us.

    Hope you are having a great week, sending you warm wishes and love.

  15. 光明皇后のような方が皇族の中にいらしたのですね。聖武天皇とともに仏教を篤信され、この奈良の基礎を築いてくださったのですね。4枚目のピンクの花、初めて見ました。それと、雪柳は、海竜王寺だった。
    Have a nice day!

    1. 私もこの花は何だったか思い出そうとして、ハナズオウのような気がするのですが、確かではありません。 花に詳しい友人が見てくれると教えてくれるかもしれません。海竜王寺は法華寺の近くですね。タフなサラさんなら両方同日に行けますよ。

    2. 今訪問してこのコメント読みました。多分、緋菊桃じゃないかなと思います。先日大和文華館に行った時、万作かなと最初思った花木が、緋菊桃と書いてあったのを思いだしました。それにしてもYokoさんの写真は、どれを見ても心惹かれますね。やはり「心」でしょうね。最近とくに、何をするかではなくて、どういう心でするかという事なんだという事を感じます。

    3. インターネットで緋菊桃の画像を調べてみると、私の記憶、写真の4,5枚目と一致しました。さすがぁ、花博士、ありがとう。

  16. Fascinating history and gorgeous shots.

  17. 法華寺の庭はほんの一部分しか観た事がありませんでした。ブリティシュガーデンに見たてられたのは面白いですね。私はふるさとの五月山の花々を思い出しました。瓦に散った花弁が美しいですね。

  18. 法華寺、春満開ですね。しだれ桜もとてもきれいですが、椿、すばらしい!雪柳も風情があってステキです。光明皇后の筆跡を何度が見たことがあります。とても勇壮で太いお筆で、そばに展示されていた聖武天皇のより、力強かったのを思い出しました。きっと、あのご夫婦、奥様のほうが決断力があったのかもしれません。悲田院のプロジェクトをやるには、強い意志力が必要ですものね。

  19. Yokoさん こんにちは。
    すっかりご無沙汰してしまいました。 ようやく少し落ち着き、辺りを見ると 桜も葉桜。
    そして様々な花が 自分たちが舞台にあがる時がきたことを喜ぶように 美しさを競っていますね。
    洋子さんの素晴らしい英語力と歴史への造詣。  何もかも中途半端な私が書けるブログには限界がありますが、 

  20. Dear Yoko, this is another one or your wonderful photo documentations, thank you so much for always taking the time to please us!
    I wanted to say, that form an early age, even as a child, I believed in the small things, and I saw and noticed the little wonders - there are plenty which bring happiness - and they are free and for everyone...
    And I believe that the drops are not falling on hot stones, but fill the oceans...

  21. What a beautiful place and an amazing history ! I am delighted with your photographs flowering trees.
    Greetings !

  22. You have a wonderful gift for photographing flowers and these are first class. The story of the Empress is one I've never heard before. Thank you for another beautiful post.

  23. こんばんは。 相変わらず、素晴らしいブログです。藤原不比等の邸宅は、朱雀門からよく見える所にありましたね。光明皇后というと、土地名を全て二文字にするようお触れを出した事しか思い出せません。「倭を大和」に「粟を安房」。 日本のマザーテレサですか。全然知りませんでした。
     4番目の花は、庭桜の様に見えます。 赤花のマンサクも美しいです。


  24. Hello, stardust.

    Good feeling, and Cool touch works.
    Thank you for your visiting always.

    I wish You all the best.

    ruma ❃

  25. Wonderful story! Full of grace and self-sacrifice, and kind without moralizing. Thanks a lot, Yoko!

  26. Delightful presentation! And the information is precious, too! I did not know about this Japanese "Mother Teresa" and about the many good deeds she performed for the less favoured people. The camellia garden must be a sight for searching eyes, the flowers look amazing!


Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I will visit your blog shortly. Have a nice day!