March 30, 2010

Sakura blossoms in Tokei-ji temple

Sakura (Japanese Cherry) blossoms, which symbolize the climax of spring in Japan, have just begun to bloom vigorously and reign over the gardens of Kita-kamakura by their mesmeric charms.

Sakura will come into full bloom in a week or so and then, in a sudden gust of spring wind, its countless petals will gracefully flutter down in unison just like an unseasonable and fragrant snowstorm.

Sakura blossoms in Tokei-ji temple

Sakura blossoms in Tokei-ji temple

In a similar way to the beautiful old Chinese poems composed by zen monks, the transitory blossoms of Sakura are subtly implying the truth of all that lives.

In the quiet garden of this temple, the cascades of pale pink blossoms are swaying in the spring breeze as if they were heartily enjoying their best and brief flowering time.

Sakura blossoms and a gray heron in Tsurugaoka-hatchimangu

Sakura blossoms in Kencho-ji temple

Yukiyanagi (Spiraea thunbergii) flowers in Kencho-ji temple

Hananira (Ipheion uniflorum) flowers in Kencho-ji temple

Aka-mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Butterflies in Engaku-ji temple

A flower attracts a butterfly without any intention,
a butterfly floats to a flower without any intention,
a butterfly visits a flower when a flower opens, and
a flower opens when a butterfly visits a flower.

I do not know other people and
other people do not know me, but
all of us are following the law of the universe
without being aware of it.

(From the Chinese poems of Ryoukan, a prominent Japanese zen monk of the late Edo period)

Sakura blossoms in Engaku-ji temple

Tosamizuki (Corylopsis spicata) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Himaraya-yukinosita (Bergenia stracheyi) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

March 22, 2010

A garden-rock in Engaku-ji temple

In a Japanese traditional garden, a rock is considered and treated as a sort of living thing in the same manner as a plant and a flower.

This beautiful rock is sitting still like an ascetic tranquilly waiting for the time of spiritual awakening under the shade of trees.

Kan-zakura (early-flowering Sakura) blossoms in Engaku-ji temple

On a bright spring day after a long spell of rain, I saw these new-blown sakura blossoms which were about to flutter down gracefully without any regret at any moment.

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Kaizo-ji temple

Haku-mokuren (Magnolia heptapeta) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Haku-mokuren (Magnolia heptapeta) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

The best flowering time of Haku-mokuren is here at last in Kita-kamakura.

The innumerable flowers of brilliant white color are blossoming magnificently under the vivid blue sky of mid-March as if they sang the praise of springtime delightfully.

Zen-monks in Engaku-ji temple

The zen monks were silently and wholeheartedly trimming the front garden of the Shari-den or "the hall of Buddha's bones."

Intense and earnest labor is one of the essential ascetic practices for the monks in the temples of the Rinzai Sect.

The elegant and modest gardens specific to the zen temples are sustained by such hidden laborious work of zen monks.

An Otome-tsubaki (Camellia japonica var. decumbens) flower in Kaizo-ji temple

As spring approaches its height, Tsubaki (camellia), which is a typical and outstanding winter blooming plant in Kita-kamakura, is gradually drawing to the end of its flowering season.

Neat and elegant Otome-tsubaki (i.e. maiden camellia) flowers add a beautiful final touch to our pleasant memory of the flamboyant winter flowers of Tsubaki.

Aka-mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

The eagerly-awaited brilliant colors of nature have come back to our gardens again.

Lenten rose in Jochi-ji temple

Hyugamizuki (Corylopsis pauciflora) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Flowers are cheerfully celebrating the glory of a spring day.

Kibushi (Stachyurus praecox) flowers along the wayside

Tsubaki (camellia) flowers along the wayside

Suisen (daffodil) flowers along the wayside

March 14, 2010

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

In the well-tended garden of Tokei-ji, yellow Mitsumata is coming into full bloom and mesmerizes us with the magic of its pleasant color and perfume.

The overblown Ume flowers, which have nearly fulfilled their noble duty, are being scattered quietly in the soft breeze of spring.

Seasons are surely and gradually changing in this small but magical garden.

A Suisen (daffodil) flower in Tokei-ji temple

It striked me that this offered beautiful flower was softly praying to the small stone statue of Jizo-bosatsu for divine mercy on behalf of us all.

Fallen petals of Ume (Japanese apricot) in Tokei-ji temple

The fallen petals were scattered all over the grass and gracefully decorated the garden of stillness, as a final memento of the gorgeous flowing time of Ume.

Shokassai (Orychophragmus violaceus) flowers in Tokei-ji temple

A Shokassai flower is one of the typical spring flowers of Kita-kamakura.

The small purple flowers of this plant blossom almost everywhere and continue to bloom vigorously until early summer.

This flower convinces us of the brisk strides of spring.

Young leaves of Iwatabako (Conandron) in Tokei-ji temple

With the coming of real spring, small juvenile leaves of Iwatabako begin to appear inconspicuously out of the cracks in the mossed rock faces of this garden.

Before long, in the shades of these growing leaves, delicate stalks with baby flower buds will emerge one after another and continue to grow.

Early in June, the numerous purple flowers of this small plant will come into bloom simultaneously on the steep rock faces.

The mystic pentacle-shaped flower of Iwatabako is one of the most beautiful emblems in the blooming garden of early summer in Kita-kamakura.

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

Sanshuyu (Cornus officinalis) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Kan-zakura (early-flowering Sakura) blossoms in Engaku-ji temple

Children under a Byakusin tree in Engaku-ji temple

Many children were picnicking and playing livelily in the front garden of the Butsuden (Buddha hall).

In the mild spring sunlight, it appeared to me that these spirited children were the adorable incarnation of this joyful springtime.

The Byakusin tree, which symbolizes Zen spirit, was fondly watching over these flowerlike children.

Haku-mokuren (Magnolia heptapeta) flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Haku-mokuren has just begun to bloom in Engaku-ji.

Aka-mitsumata flowers in Engaku-ji temple

March 1, 2010

Chasen-bai flowers in Tokei-ji temple

The reunion with these little and delicate flowers is one of my favorite pleasures given by this early spring season.

This plant, which is also a kind of Ume plant, is called "Chasen-bai" (i.e. Chasen-ume) because the form of its unfolded stamens is said to resemble the shape of a "chasen."

A "chasen" is one of the tea utensils (cha-dogu) for a traditional tea ceremony. This utensil is a bamboo-made tea whisk, which is used to mix powdered green tea ("matcha") and hot water uniformly in a tea bowl ("chawan".)

The delightful flowers of Chasen-bai must be a precious floral ornament for this peaceful garden of spring.

Ume flowers and buds in Engaku-ji temple

Kanzakura flowers in Engaku-ji temple

Kanzakura, namely early-flowering Sakura, begins to bloom here and there in Kita-kamakura.

These precocious Sakura flowers joyfully notify the splendid best time of blossoming which is surely drawing near.

An archer in Engaku-ji temple

The art of Japanese archery is generally considered to have a close relationship to Japanese Zen Buddhism from the standpoint of their spiritual discipline.

On the inner wall of this "Enma (the King of Hell)" shrine, the bow left by Eugen Herrigel (1884-1955), a German professor who taught philosophy in Japan and wrote the important book titled "Zen in the Art of Archery," is displayed as a memento of his deep devotion to Japanese archery and Zen Buddhism.

Ume flowers in Jochi-ji temple

In spite of the unsettled weather of this chilly season, graceful Ume calmly and steadfastly continues to blossom waiting for the full-scale blooming of the other following flowers.

Raindrops on the petals in Jochi-ji temple

The raindrops were still remaining on the petals of the Tsubaki flower after a gentle morning rain.

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

In the tranquil garden of Jyochi-ji, numerous Mitsumata flowers have livelily started to blossom with one accord and vigorously emit their sweet perfume into the air as if they rejoiced at the coming of delightful springtime.

A Jibo-kannon statue in Jochi-ji temple

Jibo-kannon-bosatsu, a kannon image embracing a baby closely, symbolizes the pure and unconditional affection which a mother pours out on her children. "Jibo" means a affectionate mother.

Jibo-kannon-bosatsu is believed to show profound mercy and affection to all living things and compassionately watch over us to release us from any agony and distress.

Mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha) flowers in Jochi-ji temple

A fallen Tsubaki (Camellia japonica) flower in Jochi-ji temple

A fallen flower was lying in the old stone basin covered with thick moss.

Buds and flowers in Jochi-ji temple