January 24, 2010

Winter peony flowers in Tsurugaoka-hatchimangu

The winter peony flowers were blooming with magnificent and gorgeous beauty in the sunny spots of the old shrine's peony garden.

In China and Japan, a peony flower is esteemed as one of the most auspicious flowers and is called the king of flowers because of its splendid figure and color.

A peony flower naturally blossoms in April and May in Japan. A winter peony flower is artificially stimulated to blossom in January and February by the painstaking attention and care of gardeners.

The red blossoms of Ume (Japanese apricot) in Tokei-ji temple

Under the clear blue sky, the early flamboyant flowers of Ume are telling us that eagerly-awaited spring is almost here.

Winter Peony flowers in Tsurugaoka-hatchimangu

The roof of woven straw was tenderly sheltering the delicate crimson flowers of peony from the harsh weather of midwinter.

Narcissus flowers in Jochi-ji temple

These white gauzy flowers suggested me of the myth of the beautiful young man with the same name.

The enticing sweet scent of these flowers was suited for the quiet winter garden of the zen temple in a similar manner to the aroma of precious oriental incense.

The garden of Kaizo-ji temple

The red blossoms of Ume (Japanese apricot) in Kaizo-ji temple

Winter peony flowers in Tsurugaoka-hatchimangu

January 15, 2010

Winter sunset at Yuiga-hama beach

January capriciously presents us with the amazing evening glow filled with inexpressible hues as a token of apology for its cold and gloomy weather.

Robai (Chimonanthus praecox) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

The petals of these small flowers seem to be made of pure beeswax.

A white camelia flower in Engaku-ji temple

Butsunichi-an hall of Engaku-ji temple

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha)buds in Engaku-ji temple

The silver downy hairs on the surfaces of Mitsumata buds were shining brightly in the glare of the declining sun of midwinter.

The small vivid flowers of Mitsumata will soon bloom vigorously to herald the advent of early spring.

The Hojyo of Engaku-ji temple

Manryo (Ardisia swartz) in Engaku-ji temple

"Ensokuken" teahouse in Engaku-ji temple

This narrow entrance to a teahouse is called "Nijiri-gutchi" and is provided to symbolize the mental preparedness of the guest who enters into an undefiled tea ceremony room.

In order to enter into a tea ceremony room through this small opening, a guest must bend ("nijiru") her or his knees and crawl on her or his hands and knees like a baby.

A guest enters into a tea ceremony room as a genuine and innocent human without any impure and worldly belongings such as swords, luxurious garments, social status, gender and so on.

When a guest squeezes through this restricted entrance, she or he has to remove her or his superficial and mundane properties to get rid of any hindrance.

According to the philosophy of the tea ceremony, a teahouse is a small and pure utopia on the earth.

You can enter here through this narrow gate as a sincere and pure human and be wholeheartedly treated as a true guest of honor by the master at a tea ceremony as if it were an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or "itchigo-itchie."

The winter garden of Engaku-ji temple

January 6, 2010

Decorations for the New Year in Jochi-ji temple

"Shogatsu-kazari" or the New Year's decorations are typically displayed on the both side of the front entrace of a house or place for the first 7 days of January in order to welcome the arrival of "Toshi-gami " (the god of year.)

Toshi-gami is the folk guardian deity which is believed to bring a year of rich harvest and happiness to a house every year.

The pine needles represent the landing spot for inviting Toshi-gami into a house. "Shime-nawa" (straw cord with white papar strips) symbolizes the pure and clean ground for welcoming the deity.

The bamboo, "Robai" and "Manryo", which are typical garden plants of midwinter in Japan, are displayed beautifully as auspices and good luck charms for fulfilling a happy new year.

Narcissus flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Thanks to the clear and cold air of midwinter, I can discover the presence of precious flowers by scenting instead of sighting.

It is a great preasure to encounter flowers blooming sweetly in a wintry scene of withered vegetation.

Winter tints in Jochi-ji temple

Robai (Chimonanthus praecox) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha)buds in Jochi-ji temple

A hint of spring bloom is already here. Plants continue to grow steadily without stopping.

Winter tints in Jochi-ji temple

For a fleeting second, I had the illusion that a lot of beautiful winter butterflies were quietly resting their wings on branches during their long journey to somewhere.

The Hondo (main hall) of Tokei-ji temple

The wooden sitting statue of Shaka-nyorai, which is the principal image of the temple, is enshrined in this Hondo.

Shaka-nyorai is Siddhartha Gautama (namely, Buddha) himself who had experienced spiritual awakening.

This Hondo was built in 1935. The old Hondo was relocated to Sankeien Park (Yokohama city) in 1907 and still stands there.

Aoki (Aucuba japonica) fruits in Tokei-ji temple

Robai (Chimonanthus praecox) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

These elegant "Robai" flowers were gently giving off an enchanting perfume in the chill air of this garden. It was unfortunate that my camera could not capture such a pleasant perfume.

The name of "Robai" means a waxwork plum and is named after the waxwork-like petals of its flower. In Japan, this plant is called "one of the three close friends of harsh winter" as well as a pine tree and a bamboo plant.

Boke (Chaenomeles speciosa) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

A Bosatsu stone image in Engaku-ji temple

I found the merciful heart of Buddha in the innocent smiling face of this small Bosatsu.

The San-mon (mountain gate) of Engaku-ji temple