Tuesday, May 15, 2018

好古園 Koko-en Gardens by the Himeji Castle

The Garden of the Lord's residence

Japanese garden “Koko-en” was opened in 1992 to celebrate 100th year anniversary of Himeji City
 at the exact site of Nishi-Oyashiki (Lord’s West Residence) with Himeji Castle.
The archaeologically excavated site of samurai houses and roads was utilized
 and the gardening techniques of the Edo period (1603-1868) was used. 
The 3.5 hectare garden is composed of nine separate walled gardens designed in different style.
This post covers some of them.

The comfortable sound of water leads visitors to the Garden of the Lord's Residence,
which is the biggest garden in Koko-en.
There are about 250 colorful Koi carp in the large pond.

Seasonal flowers bloom one after another.

During the hanami season when I visited Himeji Castle
cherry blossoms were the most eye-catching,
giving grace and beauty to the Flatly Landscaped Garden.

The photo below; Japanese Quince
One month later in May, dominant colors are refreshing shades of green.

Bamboo fences separate the garden from the outside and are decorative.
Bamboo is strong, yet flexible, which allows for a great variety of designs.
 When it is exposed to sun and rain, it is relatively short-lived weathering sooner, 
but it ages gracefully. 

These bamboo fences below subdivide the garden.

In the Tea Ceremony Garden, inside and outside of the architecture becomes one
with big windows wide open.
I like this integration of interiors and exteriors.

At the authentic sukiya style teashouse, Souju-an, Green powdered tea is served.

Drinking a cup of rich frothy green tea;
a moment of pause and reflection,
to finish the gardens tour or to have a rest in between.

Monday, April 23, 2018

室生寺 Muro-ji Temple in harmony with Rhododendron

Muro-ji Temple is located halfway up Mount Muro in the city of Uda 
near the boundary of Nara and Mie Prefectures.

It is known as “女人高野 Koya-san for Women.”
It was opened to both males and females, while Mount Koya was only to males.

Its Five-story Pagoda (late 8th century) is the tiniest among the national treasures 
standing outdoors in Japan
and the second oldest next to that of Horyu-ji Temple.
It stands elegant and magnificent,
looks much taller when looked up from the below.

Rhododendrons display their colorful blooms about three weeks from mid-April.
At the peak of Rhododendron season, the temple precinct is awash 
with glorious pink blooms. 
Under the canopies of the flowers and green foliage,
the stone steps lead you up to the inner sanctuary.

In light and shadow
Many Stone Buddhist images here and there are adorned with the flowers.

The stone steps connect about a dozen of buildings,
leading through a dense forest up to the inner sanctuary.
The old wooden temple structures blend in with the surrounding nature.

Kondo Hall

 Cercis chinensis

Miroku-do Hall
Muro-ji Temple has drawn the devoted for a long, long time
in spite of its remote location with limited access.
Spring is so beautiful in the harmony of pink and green
but each and every season is also enchantingly fascinating
to take in natural beauty in the solemn atmosphere.

(All the photos were taken on May 3 last year.)

Linked to Mosaic Monday
Our World Tuesday

Saturday, April 7, 2018

White Egret in the sea of Sakura

The severity of winter doesn’t affect the blooming time of Sakura (Cherry blossoms).  
The buds of Sakura get into sleep in summer right after birth, get awake by the chill air of winter 
and wait for warm air over 15 degrees C to open.  
This season, too early visit of winter and the sudden warming up from the bitter cold followed by the unseasonable warm days
made Sakura bloom much earlier than usual.

When Somei-yoshino, the most widely planted flowering cherry trees in Japan,
were in full bloom,
I enjoyed "hanami" (cherry blossom viewing) stroll at Himeji Castle,
aka White Egret Castle.
The Castle looked like floating over the pink clouds like a white egret with spreading wings.

National Treasure, UNESCO World Heritage site
Current structure from the 17th century

Sangoku-bori Moat
 Himeji Castle is a massively but gracefully fortified castle which was never attacked. 
From the Hishi Gate to the main keep, the labyrinth-like approach leads through multiple gates, walled paths, and baileys,
 with the purpose to slow down and expose attacking forces. 
At the heart of the complex stands the main keep, a six story wooden structure plastered white. 
It is one of only a handful of castle keeps in Japan featuring wing buildings, 
adding both beauty and complexity to its appearance.

Looking up the main Keep from the Hon-maru Bailey (1st Bailey)

The view from the Nishino-maru Garden

Kesho-yagura Tower and a part of Long Connecting Corridor
Soft breeze stirs pale-pink snow of petals from the branches.
Sakura has the most beautiful way of saying farewell.

The northern part surrounding the castle is covered with virgin forests
and people are sparse in the quieter atmosphere unlike the southern side with the Otemon gate.

Camellias and Sakura

Sakura with the backdrop of Camellia

Himeji Shrine
A moat runs into the neighboring zoo on the eastern grounds.

The view of the main keep seen from one place of the zoo

"Hanami" boat on the outer moat

Somei-yoshino Sakura was too fleeting this year due to the consecutive sunny and warm days.
In my neighborhood, the blossoms are almost over and the fresh leaves have appeared.
Somei-yoshino Sakura front is going north, dying Japanese archipelago pink.

More about Himeji Castle; A White Egret standing in the Himeji plain.

Linked to Weekend Reflections
Mosaic Monday