May 28, 2011

The tiled roof of Jyufuku-ji

The delicate sunlight of the late afternoon transiently revealed the exact moment of beauty in the familiar quiet scene of this Zen temple.

By intuitively finding secret treasures of beauty in our ordinary world, we can taste the true joy of life and experience the moment of enlightenment.

The peaceful garden of Zen is eternally waiting for our sudden and pure awaking to its hidden truth.

Shiran (Bletilla striata) flowers in Tokei-ji

A Jyako-ageha (Atrophaneura alcinous) swallowtail in Yamanouchi

In the bright afternoon sun, I saw a Jyako-ageha swallowtail (male) floating gracefully from flower to flower to suck flower nectar.

A Jyako-ageha swallowtail is the messenger of summer and its translucent front wings will sparkle in the dazzling sunlight of summer.

This elegant butterfly has a wingspan of 10cm or more and is the largest and most beautiful butterfly in Kita-kamakura.

"Jyako-ageha" means a musk-scented swallowtail in Japanese and an adult male emits a strong musk-like scent from the tip of its abdomen to declare its poisonousness to predators.

Fern leaves in Jochi-ji

Fresh leaves of May in Tsurugaoka-hachimangu

In the bright sunlight of the afternoon, the dense growth of fresh green leaves dazzled my eyes.

The quiet vermilion of the old shrine enhanced the vivid greenness of the leaves as if this shrine paid a tribute of praise to them.

Ajisai (hydrangea) flowers in Engaku-ji

Ajisai flowers are beginning to bloom without waiting for the rainy season.

An infant grasshopper is dozing away its time on the small violet flowers to dream of its summer of life.

Ayame (Iris) flowers in Engaku-ji

I found the violet flowers of Ayame blooming inconspicuously by the pond called "Shin-ji-ike" (a pond shaped like the Chinese character for "spirit").

The delicate and splendid flower of Ayame is one of the most precious jewels in the gardens of this season.

Ayame (Iris) flowers in Engaku-ji

Utsugi (Deutzia crenata) flowers in Engaku-ji

May 19, 2011

The Genpei-ike pond of Tsurugaoka-hachimangu

The glassy surface of the pond always mirrors the beauties of the shifting seasons and lives

The magenta flowers of azalea and the vivid yellow flowers of iris, which are typical flowers of May here, are reflected in the quiet pond together with the young green leaves.

Innumerable newborn leaves of sacred lotus are beginning to appear on the surface of the pond to prepare for the approaching of summer and the days of its full blooming.

The nature where we live is born to be beautiful like Claude Monet told us with his colors, light and brush.

The bamboo grove of Eisho-ji

Kodemari (Spiraea cantoniensis) flowers in Jochi-ji

"Kodemari" means a small toy handball for use by little girls.

Small white flowers (about 1cm in diameter) bloom in cascades of spherical flower clusters. Because of such adorable and elegant appearance, Kodemari flowers are often displayed as typical seasonal flowers in the tea ceremonies of this season.

The zen-do in Engaku-ji

This Zen-do (Zen-hall), the place for practicing Zen meditation, stands by the side of the Shari-den (the hall of Buddha's bones) which is the heart of this old temple.

Trainee monks live in this Zen-do to single-heartedly practice Za-zen (seated Zen meditation) and try to solve the insoluble enigmas for achieving Satori (spiritual awakening).

The white characters of "Za-zen" on the wood board command the monk who enters this hall to sit and meditate for his very life.

Yama-fuji (Wisteria brachybotrys) flowers in Engaku-ji

Maple leaves and seeds in Tokei-ji

The seeds of maple are waiting calmly for the sudden fresh wind to rise into the air.

Hakuunboku (Styrax obassia) flowers in Jochi-ji

The Japanese name "Hakuunboku" means a tree which bears white-cloud-like flowers.

This plant is also called "fragrant snowbell" because its flowers look like snow-white bells and emit strong sweet fragrances.

Countless bumblebees were buzzing busily from flower to flower in a rapture of delight.

Utsugi (Deutzia crenata) flowers in Jochi-ji

The little milk-white flowers of Utsugi were still remaining wet after the morning rain.

These modest flowers bloom as the irreplaceable pearls of May almost everywhere in Kita-kamakura.

Hakuunboku (Styrax obassia) flowers in Jochi-ji

Gen-pei-giku (Erigeron) flowers in Kaizo-ji

Maple and bamboo in Kaizo-ji

Tsutsuji (Rhododendron) flowers in Kaizo-ji

May 15, 2011

The sacred lights offered to the victims of the 2011 great earthquake and tsunami in Jochi-ji

The sacred lights of candles dedicated to the tragic victims of the great earthquake and tsunami were quietly burning in front of the Buddha hall.

It seemed to me that the numerous silent prayers for divine mercy and salvation had altered themselves into these warm flickering candlelights and were ascending one by one into the deep night sky to reach out for the souls of those misfortuned people.

Spring maple leaves in Jochi-ji

The leaves of maple are gradually deepening greenness as the rainy season approaches inconspicuously.

The stone steps to Jochi-ji

The worn and weathered stone-steps leading up to the bell-tower gate was still wet slightly after the short morning rain.

The flowers of Tsutsuji and Shaga, which were about to be past their prime, lent moderate enchantment to the profound stillness of the passage to the temple in the dim green grove.

Haru-botan (spring peony) flowers in Kencho-ji

Haru Botan (spring peony) flowers in Kencho-ji

Shakunage (rhododendron) flowers in Engaku-ji

May 8, 2011

Fresh green leaves of maple in Tokei-ji

The brilliant sunlight of May is pouring on the fresh green leaves of maple to make them sparkle radiantly in this quiet shady grove.

The lush greenness of new leaves is one of the most appreciated gifts of nature which this bright and pleasant season brings to us.

These leaves will continue to grow vigorously till beyond the summer and then take on lively autumnal tints to delight our eyes in the late autumn.

Seasons keep turning around and presenting us their precious beauties diversely.

The gate to the Zen-do of Engaku-ji

In May, a maple tree bears a great number of tiny red flowers.

In front of the forbidden gate to the Zen-do (the hall for practicing Zen meditation), the vivid color combination of the fresh green leaves and the small red flowers of the maple tree suddenly dazzled my eyes.

Just at that moment, the deep sutra-chanting voices of the trainee monks solemnly sounded through this forbidden gate as if to awaken and guide me to the eternal truth.

Spring Botan (peony) flowers in Kencho-ji

A Haru-Botan (spring-peony) flower is very large (about 15-20 cm in diameter) and have great beauty and splendor in shape and color. Because of its overwhelming grace, this flower is traditionally called the king of flowers in China and Japan.

The royal purple petals of these flowers appeared to be made of brightly-colored silk paper and were trembling peacefully in the light breeze of May.

Botan is said to have been imported into Japan from China in the 8th century as a herbal medicine in connection with the introduction of Buddhism.

Tsutsuji (Rhododendron) flowers in Kencho-ji

Spring Botan (peony) flowers in Kencho-ji

The fresh green garden of Tokei-ji

The pathway leading to the image of Buddha is bathed in the clear pleasant sunlight peculiar to this season.

The shining new leaves of trees and grasses are gathering around the image like the young disciples who are eagerly listening to the teachings of Buddha.

The faint signs of early summer can be found in the fragrant air of this tranquil garden.

Seiyo-jyunihitoe (Ajuga reptans) flowers in Tokei-ji

Shakunage (rhododendron) flowers in Engaku-ji

May 1, 2011

A bamboo grove in Kencho-ji

In the middle of spring, the bright enriching rays of the sun are falling softly into the fresh green grove of bamboo to encourage the young leaves to grow abundantly.

In many Zen temples in Japan, the Zen picture called "the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove" is painted as an allegorical painting of the teaching of Zen on the "Fusuma" screens (sliding partitions) of the practicing rooms of the temples.

These seven sages are the Chinese legendary figures of the third century who are said to have learned the philosophy of Lao zi and Zhuang and held purely intellectual conversations deep in a solitary bamboo grove free away from the earthly human society.

The pure isolation and unworldliness of these sages in a deep bamboo grove symbolically represent the essential attitude of a Zen monk who devotes himself to achieve spiritual enlightenment in remote tranquil solitude far from this human world.

Yama-zakura (Prunus jamasakura) blossoms in Kencho-ji

Yae-zakura (Prunus lannesiana) blossoms in Engaku-ji

Fresh leaves in Tsurugaoka-hachimangu

The beautiful combination of green colors of fresh leaves made me sense the calm but energetic renewing of life force in spring.

These trees stand beside the "Genpei-ike" pond in this shrine.

The dark quiet surface of water between the trees seems like the secret path toward the far distant bamboo grove where sages live.

Sakura (Prunus × yedoensis) blossoms in Tsurugaoka-hachimangu

Countless white petals of Sakura are quietly falling on the smooth surface of water.

The wooden balcony, which belongs to the peony garden of this shrine, protrudes beyond the edge of this pond.

According to our tradition of tea ceremony, the red felt mats called "Hi-mousen" are laid on the benches for welcoming the guests in this garden.

A blue heron in Tsurugaoka-hachimangu