Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn Feast

Autumn leaves at Tenkawa never let me down.

In a mountainous area lies a village of Tenkawa in Yoshino in southern part of Nara. It features mountain ranges starting from Mt. Yoshino to Omine mountain ranges in my previous post and a gorge with beautiful views of the emerald green water and surrounding foliage.

Emperor Temmu

Yoshino has also full of monuments of human history. Dating back
to 7th century, it was once a hiding place for Prince Oama, later
 he became Emperor Temmu (reign 673-686), who fought for a succession dispute against his nephew Prince Otomo at Jinshin War 
in 672.

Emperor Go-Daigo

Long after that in 14th century, Emperor Go-Daigo fled down toYoshino and set up the Southern Court among the mountain  of Yoshino in the hope for renewed lease on his reign  in Kyoto. That was a beginning of Nanboku-cho (Period of North and South Dynasties, 1336-1392). Hilly mountainous area made a natural fortress but this place led to the sea or the river to go around  in the south or in the east so that they could get the information with the help of Shugendo practitioners who were spreading nationwide. Here Tenkawa, there were warriors who were very supportive to the court. Though the emperor finished his life here longing for returning to Kyoto in vain.

There are many other historical events and figures involved the area in.

 From the gorge, we cimbed  観音峰 (mountain of Bodhisattva, Goddess of Mercy 1347m).  On the way up the top, there is a torii, where there used to be a shrine closely connected with Southern Court. You can see the fusion of Buddhism and ancient Shintoism here as well.

You can see the pointed rock mountain in the center of this picture over there? It is another peak of Mt. Inamura-ga-take called Mt.Dainichi (right picture from my previous post) and on its left is Mt. Inamuragatake, which I climbed previous week, and then Mt. Sanjogatake.

It started  raining lightly and gray vapors were hovering among mountains. It is not so clear but you can see the houses of the village below at the forehead of this picture. It is Tenkawa village. The scenery looked quite different from colorful world  I saw on the way up here because of an overcast sky.

Climbing down  the mountain, gray vapors rose from the bottom and veiled the colorful mountains gently.

Tenkawa or Yoshino is my favorite place. I'd like to visit it again soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Under a Clear Autumn Sky

To make up for a lack of exercise these days, my husband and I climbed Mt. Inamura-ga-take (1725m) the other day.

                                      climbing a gradual slope through coniferous forest

                                                         an elephant among the trees!?

                           Passing through the coniferous forest, you’ll find broadleaf tree forest                  
                           spreading, some of them were turning into autumn colors.

                                           This kind of wooden bridge supported by iron piles
                                          or iron chains on rocky and rugged slopes for climbers
                                          to hold were fixed on the way to the top.

Clockwise from left, mikaeriso (mikaeri means look back; so those flowers are so beautiful that you have to look back to see them again), noazami, hagakure-tsurifuneso (mouthful name! hagakure means hidden under the leaf ), mamushiso in spring (mamushi means viper, do you think it just looks like a viper raises its head ?) and then mamushiso now in fall.

                                               another peak of Mt. Inamura-ga-take

                                        Nothing is in the way to see panoramic view from
                                              the top of Mt. Inamura-ga-take.

Over there is Mt. Sanjo-ga-take. Actually it is included in mountain ranges called Mt. Omine  but in a narrow sense of the term, Mt. Sanjo-ga-take is called Mt. Omine. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage sites, as part of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Route in Kii Mountain Range”. The temple on the top of  it is the head quarters of the Shugendo sect of Japanese Buddhism and the entire mountain is part of pilgrimage and training ground of ascetic practitioners.

Traditionally women were not allowed to climb mountains sacred to Shinto religions. Nowadays only Sanjo-ga-take has the ban on women. However, its prohibition is no legal binding, there have been breaches by feminist activists. The temple and the local community issue a request for people to understand their religion and tradition. Instead,  this Inamura-ga-take was reserved for women's practitioners, which doesn't mean women's only  though.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Congratulations on Your Wedding!

You were the most charming and beautiful ever on your wedding.

The ceremony was held at the church-like chapels at the hotel performed by a bridal priest. Christian-style wedding is very popular here, that is because many  couples, non-religious couple like yours, find it romantic as well as solemn. Some criticize it but I think great existence should be universal, he is sure to bless you whether you are Christian or non-Christian. We attendants celebrated your wedding by singing a hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus”. I love this song very much.

When leaving the reception hall for change of costume, you asked your mother to accompany you. She looked very happy.

I’ve known you since you were small. Since your mother was working, you and your brother often came to my house. You were like my own children. As the youngest of all the cousins on your mum’s side, small and lovable as you were, you were sensible enough to show the consideration to your family members as well as to others.

I know there was a hard time to go through but you learned hard way. When asked to say something without notice beforehand at the wedding reception, I was a terrible speaker with tears welling up and made you cry. I was so sorry. You know I am the one who is easily moved to tears.

It was a beautiful wedding. A wedding is more than just two people getting married. We all witnessed the moment you started a new life.

My best wishes for future happiness, Sae-chan!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oldest Extant Shinto Shrine in Japan

Omiwa Shrine or Miwa Shrine is situated in Sakurai, Nara, in a quiet forest in front of Mount Miwa (467m). The notable thing about the shrine is that it is believed to serve Mount Miwa so there’s no shinden, main hall, for the deity to be housed. This type of mountain worship is found in the earliest forms of Shinto. Two ancient chronicles, Kojiki and Nihonshoki, compiled in 8th century wrote about the myth or tales of the origin of the shrine and religious practices surrounding the mountain. So Omiwa Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan.

a second torii leading to the inner compound 

And then a large shime torii, an ancient form of torii made only with two posts and a rope called shimenawa.  Haiden, prayer hall, you can see here was contributed by the fourth Tokugawa shogun Ietsuna in 1664.

This cedar tree is estimated 400 years old. According to Nihonshoki, Shinto God or Kami who resided here was also a snake god, so a snake was considered to be one of the kami worshiped here. A white snake can be seen to come out from the hole of this tree so it's called sacred cedar tree of snake. Frankly speaking, I'm not fond of the idea, though.

You can climb Mount Miwa from here. Once no entry was allowed but now anyone can climb it after registering and paying 300 yen at the shrine office. Here at the entrance you purify your soul  and wear the handed white sash with a bell attached. (right)

No photograph, no eating and drinking except water in the mountain. I climbed a couple of times. It is almost a two-hour round trip. I am not a shintoist, however when I have something in  mind, I feel like climbing that mountain. It's perspiring but the thought deities have been believed to reside  since the ancient times and people have worshiped and admired it since the time immemorial makes me feel sober and refreshed. These days this place became popular as a "power spot" among young people who are interested in "spiritual" matter.

These areas called Yamato Basin or Nara Basin full of ancient burial mounds or historical remains, old temples and shrines.  According to Chinese historical records, a united kingdom called Yamatai-koku ruled by Queen Himiko flourished in Japan in the early 3rd century. Who was Himiko? Where was Yamatai-koku? These are still controversial question but one theory says Hashihaka kofun (burial mound) related to Mount Miwa might be Himiko's.

Panoramic view from the lookout in the compound. Can you see a large torii in the middle of right side?
Pointed hill a liite left from the torii is Miminashi-yama and then Unebi-yama and  Kagu-yama. Behind those three hills range Nijo-zan from the right and Mt. Katsuragi (959m) and then followed by Mt. Kongo (1125m).

I wanted to see sunset from here so returned here again a week later. The sky was not so clear and I was worried one hour drive from home woudln't pay off . However, soft glowing evening sun from the rift in the clouds was more than I had expected. It illuminated remaining thunderheads from behind and made glowing lines. I am afraid the picture didn't do it justice. Though my husband hurried me to go home, I wanted to stay here a bit longer.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nice To See You

I am Coo, 空 in Chinese character, an eight- month- old boy cat .

I didn’t remember at all but they say I was crying in a cardboard box on a rainy day. A kind person took me to the volunteer group who was protecting poor cats or dogs like me. I was hospitalized for a week and then waited with other mates in a temporal care taker's place for foster parents to adopt  me, where they came in.

Almost two weeks have passed since I came here. I have to say I am a fraidy-cat and a little too shy but as curious as a cat. At first I was so nervous and uneasy that I hid in any and every small space in a room such as  between sofa and walls or under the beds or at the back of boxes, wherever I could lurk. My soft fur gathered lots of dust from here and there. When I felt I was driven into a corner, I stood with my back arched, my ears tilted, hissing at them. It’s not that I didn’t like my new parents and their younger daughter who didn’t bother to come and see me when I first came here but just that it takes time for me to get used to a new surrounding. I just wanted them to leave me alone.

However, I couldn’t resist the lure of food. When I heard the familiar rustling sound of plastic bag of food torn open and my dinner served on my plate, I gave in and couldn’t help purring after all. Little by little I started smelling around to find out what my new house was like. One night I was caught stealing  open canned tuna my mom forgot to put in the refrigerator and bringing it to my room, on the way getting the floor dotted with juice from the can. She forgave me with a smile. Just for this once, I suppose. 

She told me that they had a cat who lived as long as 20 years. When he left this world three years ago, she found it so painful and suffered a wistful sense of loss afterwards. Since then she has decided not to have pets any more.

Three years are enough to ease her grief and things have changed. Thanks to one of her blog friend’s post she admired a lot, she began thinking of taking on life in need again. Maybe it was lucky for me.

This seemingly living creature stimulates my hunting instinct.

 Poor creature! Almost beyond the original features. 
I am catching it by the seemingly tail. Do I look cool?

I have to check weather forecast to prepare for the approaching typhoon

I gradually became friendly with my new parents and find it not so bad the way mom strokes and fondles me when I am sleepy. I have a good feeling I'll get along with them for the rest of my life.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Flower Temple

In the wee hour of this morning, I was woken by the sound of heavy rain, followed by thunder with a vivid flash of lightning coming through the opening of the curtains. However, by the time I got up, it had already let up and became fine day. It seemed a lull in the rain.

Well, Japanese blog friends of mine posted their pictures of hydrangeas, so I’d like to show mine. Mimurotoji Temple in Kyoto is famous as one of the 33 Holly Places of the western part of Japan. Believed to have been built in 8th century, since then it had burned down twice and the current one was rebuilt in 1805.


Hondo, main hall. This architectural style, irimoya, a hip and gable roof, was introduced from China at the same time as Buddhism (mid-6th century).

Muromachi-period (1333—1568) karesansui; waterless rock and sand garden.

It’s kaiyu-style garden ;“many-pleasure”-style manicured garden for strolling.

It is also well known as a flower temple full of colorful azaleas, rhododendrons, lotus blossoms and now hydrangeas, descending down the hillside to the Uji river.

The stone monument in the temple ground, dedicated to the tragic lady Ukifune, a fictional character in the Uji chapters, the Tale of Genji written by Murasaki Shikibu in early 11th century.  She is said to be buried here. In the story, the beautiful Ukifune is loved by two noblemen but finds herself wavering between them . Eventually she becomes so distracted that she throws herself into the Uji river. What has become of her? If you are interested, why don't you try reading, though the story is extremely long.

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