Monday, May 28, 2012

Driving to the Village Clothed in Verdure

Totsukawa is a village located in Yoshino, southernmost part of Nara. It is the largest village in Japan in terms of land area, which consists of forest (96% of the area) and water.
Driving down passing through mountains and mountains covered with fresh green and along the river all the way for less than three hours, my husband and I reached the bridge, one of Japan’s longest suspension bridges for pedestrians.

It was built in 1954, which was 54 m high and 297m long. Local residents in the village donated 200,000300,000 yen per family to build the bridge for their daily use. It must’ve been quite a sum in those days. They use it daily but it also has become one of visitors attractions there.

The warning sign says that we should follow the restriction;“20 persons at most at one time”
Pieces of wooden planks are fixed on the meshed iron wires. In the middle of the bridge it is quite shaky so I hear some couldn't make it to the other end of it. I didn’t feel scared, maybe because I’m used to walking a tightrope !
However, I was surprised to hear some local people cross it by bike.

                           Totsukawa or Kumano River under the bridge

                                    karasuageha or chinese peacock

                                                 Totsukawa village 

Then we extended our driving to Tamaki Shrine.
It has stood for 1300 years at an altitude of 1000 meters in the mountains surrounded with big cedar trees, one of which is estimated to be 3000 years old. The legendary first Emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, is said to have stopped here and prayed for victory, on his way to eastward expedition (神武東征). He was  led by a legendary crow named Yatagarasu (八咫烏).The whole area was wrapped with solemn and deep stillness when I visited there.

                                 mountains seen from Mt. Tamaki (1076m)

Here is Youtube about Tamaki Shrine, narrated by Naomi Kawase, who is a film director, the youngest winner of the best new director at 1997 Canne Films Festival for her first 35 mm film. Her film making mostly has been based on rural region of Nara.
She says a prayer is not a request for something in return. When you feel the aura that flows in and is generated by the natural world, your prayer may come naturally to your heart.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mount Kōya for Women

Murōji Temple in Nara lies on the mountainside of Mount.Murō whose conic figure is likened to a bud of lotus flowers. Different from many other temples of that time, women were admitted to it so this temple is  known as 女人高野 (nyonin- Kōya); Mount Kōya for Women. While passing down a various cultural heritage, it also has been showing quiet beauty in harmony with nature in every season.
Especially shakunage (Rhododendron) featuring the precincts at this time of the year has attracted visitors.

        You can see the drum bridge leading to the gate on the left. 

shibazakura;moss phlox, on the bank on the way to the gate

According to the extant record kept by the temple, a successful ritual praying to Rūjin ( dragon deity, deity of water), who was supposed to live deep in the mountain stream, for Prince Yamabe ( later to become Emperor Kammu) to cure the disease made a monk of  Kōfukuji temple build a temple on this site as the imperial court order.  

It’s quite understandable people believed and revered some mystic power in the place like this surrounded with a deep mountain and clear stream. They have also done a ritual for rain here.

                                       Kondo ( national treasure, early Heian Period )

Five storied pagoda (national treasure), the smallest kind standing in the open air, remains from 9th century, the second oldest to that of Hōryūji Temple.

Hanazuo (Chinese redbud )

Its finial form is rare; there’s a pot-like Hobyo instead of Suien and a canopy like an umbrella over it. The right side picture from wikipedia shows the usual style of finial.
The extant record says Rūjin was kept in Hobyo by the monk who was in charge of building the temple.

Passing by the pagoda, you are into the pass leading to 奥の院( Okunoin), 御影堂(Mieido), dedicated to Kūkai and stilted building called 位牌堂(Ihaido).
You have to climb up around 400 stone steps to reach there.

You have to be more careful in stepping down the stairs.

Hondo ( national treasure)

red gate

I was lucky enough to visit here this time; to see the flowers in their prime time and what’s more, I was given an unexpected free gift as the 500th visitor during the event, however I don’t know what event and since when, considering the relatively small number. Anyway I was happy to get a delicacy made of fresh local product.
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