Tag Archives: sakura

Omuro Sakura at Ninna-ji Temple

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This year’s cherry blossom season was basically a washout, with many hanami parties cancelled because of the incessant rain. Ninna-ji Temple in western Kyoto, has a special variety of cherry blossom that blooms later than most, but when it was at its best last week, the rain was still coming down. Mewby and I resolved to defy the weather and visit the temple anyway. At least, I thought, the rain will keep the bulk of tourists away. We’ll probably have the place to ourselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even in the rain, Ninna-ji Temple is very popular.

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Perhaps it is because Ninna-ji is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as one of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”? It is certainly ancient. Ninna-ji Temple was first built in 888.

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Like many Kyoto temples though, the original buildings of Ninna-ji were long ago destroyed by fire. In Ninna-ji’s case the temple was destroyed during the conflict of the Ōnin War in 1467. The majority of the current buildings date from a 17th century restoration.

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Most striking of all must be the five storied pagoda…

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But the grounds are extensive and there is much to see here.

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The Kyōzō (経蔵) or sutra repository had a sign outside describing many treasured wall paintings and Buddhist statuary, yet the building itself was completely locked up. There was however a tiny hole in the wooden walls through which we took a little peak and saw…

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The main attraction though was Ninna-ji’s famous orchard of 200 dwarf cherry trees. These date from the early Edo period, so people have been enjoying cherry blossoms here for about 400 years!

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This orchard was designated as a national scenic beauty spot in 1924.

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Even in the rain, cherry blossoms can gladden the heart!

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We enjoyed our trip to Ninna-ji and will certainly go again – but hopefully in better weather!

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You can find out more about Ninna-ji Temple at their multi-lingual website here: http://www.ninnaji.or.jp/multilingual_info.html It is also possible to stay at Ninna-ji overnight. You can find out about that here: https://ninnaji.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/staying-overnight-at-ninna-ji/

Directions:

Getting to Ninna-ji is little complicated but much of the route is quite scenic and pleasant.

To get to Ninna-ji from Kyoto station, take the JR subway to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai line. Go as far as Uzumasa-Tenjingawa/Randen-Tenjingawa (it has two names), and then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s three changes over 46 minutes for 610 yen.

To get to Ninna-ji from the town center take the Hankyu line from Kawaramachi to Sai, then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s two changes over 45 minutes for 360 yen.

Check for details of train times at: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/

Regarding the Cherry Blossoms in Okazaki, Kyoto

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Just over a year ago I took a walk in Okazaki just before the cherry blossoms bloomed, and recorded my thoughts for the book Deep Kyoto: Walks. I was primarily focused on the architecture of the area, a lot of which dates from the Meiji era. Throughout my walk though I was very conscious of those cherry blossom buds which were “just about to pop”. So a week later I went back and took some pictures of the same area with the trees in full bloom. Here is a short excerpt from that original walk and some of those later photographs. At this point, I have just departed from the the Lake Biwa Canal Museum…

Excerpt from Red Brick and Sakura by Michael Lambe

I head west along the Shirakawa canal, which carries water not from Lake Biwa but from Kyoto’s eastern hills. Pink banners wave in the breeze advertising sakura viewing boat trips, though the sakura itself has yet to bloom. Of this I am glad for I’m sure the area will be packed with tourists once the blossoms are out…

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The Shirakawa canal.

…Turning right I cross a bridge, pausing to look back down the canal towards the eastern hills. Yes, another day or so and the cherry trees along these banks will be spectacular. People will come from all over Japan to see them, and rightfully so. Even though much of old Kyoto has been lost, it is still the best city to view the cherry blossom. Somebody said that in a documentary once. I think it might have been famed movie director Nagisa Oshima, but this was way back in the early 90s and I wasn’t taking notes. The point is, that was when the idea of Kyoto, as a city of sakura, first entered my mind. It made a big impression on me. How wonderful it would be, I thought, to see that for myself. Imagine my delight when I first visited this city and the sakura chose the very day of my arrival to bloom. Such a blessing, and yet I still wasn’t satisfied. One can never be satisfied by cherry blossom. Legendary haiku poet Matsuo Bashō famously wrote “Even in Kyoto… I yearn for Kyoto”. I might add, even when I see the cherry blossom, I yearn for cherry blossom. So beautiful, yet flowering so briefly, even as we enjoy their splendor we are conscious of their imminent loss. The joy of their flowering contains a hidden seed of grief. But you cannot grasp it. To stand beneath a cherry tree and gaze into the billowing clouds of sakura above is to feel your soul being pulled out of you by the infinite regression of those heavenly petals. I wonder it does not drive people mad.

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Looking back towards the Lake Biwa Canal Museum.

I move on, north past the giant red tori gate on Jingū-michi… …where the great shrine of Heian Jingū sits like a proud bird. This red and white structure with its green tiled roofs appears to be a typical example of traditional Kyoto architecture, but actually it too is a Meiji era building. As part of the general drive to revitalize the city, it was decided in 1894 to build this shrine as a smaller scale reconstruction of the Chōdōin, part of the Imperial palace in Heian times (794 to 1185). It would be a proud symbol of the city’s Imperial heritage, a declaration to the world that even as Kyoto moved forward into the modern age it yet kept one eye on its past. I step through the entrance into the shrine’s vast grounds. No matter how many times I visit it stuns me to think that this is but a fraction of the scale of the Heian era original. I walk across the grounds to the main hall, wash my hands, throw a coin and say a prayer – this time for the continued prosperity of my adopted city. On my way out I notice some pink sakura-colored omikuji fortune slips tied to some trees to the left. I briefly toy with the idea of buying one, but no. I’ll write my own fortune and with my own words.

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The entrance to Heian Jingū.

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Text and photographs by Michael Lambe. To read the rest of Michael Lambe’s Red Brick and Sakura, download Deep Kyoto: Walks here: LINK.

DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalAbout Deep Kyoto: Walks

Deep Kyoto: Walks is an independently produced anthology of meditative strolls, rambles, hikes and ambles around Japan’s ancient capital. All of the writers and artists involved in this project have lived and worked in Kyoto for many years and know it intimately. The book is in part a literary tribute to the city that they love and in part a tribute to the art of walking for its own sake.

About Michael Lambe
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Michael Lambe is from Middlesbrough in the North East of England. He moved to Japan in 1997 and has lived, worked and studied in Fukushima, Saitama, Tokyo and Kyoto. He has been writing the Deep Kyoto blog since 2007 and doing odd jobs for Kyoto Journal since 2009. He is the Chief Editor of the Deep Kyoto: Walks anthology and has written articles for Japan Today, Morning Calm, and Simple Things magazine.

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See also:
ABOUT THE BOOK
EXTRACTS
INTERVIEWS

Cherry Blossoms on Shimbashi, Kyoto

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To the south of Shinmonzen, running east to west is Shimbashi-dori Street, probably the prettiest street in all of Gion. This flagstoned strolling area bordered with traditional buildings and willow trees follows the course of the Shirakawa canal. At its best in the cherry blossom season, it is still a delightful area in any season for a daytime stroll or an evening promenade.

– From Walking in Gion, my article for Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto.

These were some of the cherry blossoms on Shimbashi today.

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The stone monument to poet, Isamu Yoshii

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The Tatsumi Daimyojin Shrine

Read more about these locations at: http://www.insidekyoto.com/walking-in-gion

Cherry Blossom at Yoshiminedera

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About a week ago, when the sakura was still blooming, we visited Yoshiminedera (善峯寺). This is a mountain temple to the west of Kyoto, and because it is a mountain temple, the air is cooler and the sakura blooms a little later than in the city.

IMG_5642 (Medium)This is the sanmon entrance. It’s huge. Here you pay your 500 yen entry fee. It’s totally worth it.
IMG_5648 (Medium)Beyond the entrance are some steps leading up to the main hall.
IMG_5649 (Medium)There’s something very special about the atmosphere at Yoshimine Temple, something that I can’t really put into words, but I felt it most keenly when I entered the main hall above. I am not religious, but I definitely felt something spiritual there, a very deep sense of peace and calm. This is not something I have felt in many other temples, but I remember feeling something similar in the air when visiting Mount Koya a couple of years ago… Also the Buddhist art and statuary here, in particular the representations of the Kannon-sama, the spirit of Mercy, struck me as particularly beautiful.
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You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the main hall (which is a good thing really), so my pictures of the temple grounds will have to suffice. Neither words nor pictures though, can convey how lovely a spot this is. I really enjoyed our visit here.

IMG_5770 (Medium)Yoshiminedera is also famous for the Yūryu no matsu (遊龍の松) or “Playful Dragon Pine”. This 600 year old tree has been trained to grow horizontally and extends for 37 meters…
IMG_5774 (Medium)At one end of it is a massive weeping cherry tree, and that too is stunning to behold.
IMG_5782 (Medium)This cherry tree actually grows out of a maple tree which you can see in the next picture.
IMG_5784 (Medium)Beside these trees is a fan shaped stone with a poem that reads:

春は花
秋はもみじの
むすび木は
この世のしやわせ
めでたかりけり

in spring, blossom
in fall, coloured maple
these entwined trees
would celebrate
this world’s joy!

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Be prepared to have your breath taken away when you turn this next corner.

IMG_5656 (Medium)From here on, our path was graced with compassionate clouds of cherry blossom and heavenly views. Enjoy the pictures, and if you would like to visit this temple yourself someday, check the travel information at the end of this post.
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Getting there: To get to Yoshimindera we first took the JR line from Kyoto station to Mukōmachi (向日町) and then took a bus. The bus takes twenty minutes and costs 350 yen. You can also take the Hankyu line to nearby Higashi Mukō and catch the bus from there, but I would recommend Mukōmachi. Because it’s the first stop you have a better chance of getting a seat for that twenty minute journey!  Buses depart for  Yoshiminedera at 35 minutes past the hour from Mukōmachi and at 42 minutes past the hour from Higashi Mukō. Be sure to time your train journey (you can check the schedule on Jorudan), so that you don’t have to wait an hour for the next bus! Also, the last bus back is at 15.24, so be sure to go early enough. There’s a lot to see in the grounds of Yoshimine Temple, so you will need at least a couple of hours there to fully enjoy it. The temple itself is open from 8:00~17:00, so you could always get a taxi back if you wanted to stay later, but that would probably cost you a couple of thousand yen.

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See also:
Cherry Blossoms at Hirano Shrine
Cherry Blossoms at Heian Jingu

Cherry Blossoms at Hirano Shrine

Last weekend we visited Hirano Shrine, famous for it’s cherry blossoms.

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They have a lot of yatai food stalls set up there for the cherry blossom festival.

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And above them all and around them a gorgeous cloud of pink and white cherry blossom.

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“As court nobles donated cherry trees handed down in each family from ancient times, there are approximately 400 cherry trees of about 50 kinds.”

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“Early-opening flowers come into bloom in the middle of March while those blooming latest are at their best around April 20. Therefore people can enjoy cherry blossoms for about a month at this shrine.”

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It’s not always easy to get that perfect shot…

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But I think these aren’t bad.

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Hirano Shrine is located just a little further north from Kitano-Tenmangu on Nishioji Street. Here is a MAP.

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Sakura Viewing Event @ the French-Japanese Institute of Kansai

Caroline Téjédor says,

The 花見フランコフォニー (Hanami Francophone) is a huge event where people can enjoy concerts, tombolas and dances under the blossoming cherry trees of the French-Japanese Institute of Kansai. There will also be a market with stands by different francophone countries to showcase their cultures and food.

Next Sunday from 1 p.m – 8 p.m join us for a day full of music and laughter under the sakura trees !

Thank you Caroline! Here are the links (Japanese and French only)

Website

Facebook event page

The French-Japanese Institute is on the west side of Higashioji  Street between Higashi-Ichijo and Imadegawa. Here is a map.

Cherry Blossoms at Heian Jingu

One of the best books you can read about Kyoto is a novel by Yasunari Kawabata: The Old Capital. It is both a great story, and a wonderful guide to the city and its seasonal traditions. One of the most famous scenes in that book is in the gardens of Heian Jingu when the characters Chieko and Shin’ichi go to see the cherry blossoms. I visited Heian Jingu yesterday to see these famous blossoms for myself. Here are my pictures with text by Kawabata. Continue reading

Petals on a wet, black bough…

Sa-ku-ra! Sa-ku-ra!


Yes, the hanami season has arrived and the cheery, cherry blossoms look so good I could just EAT them!

Well, there is no more romantic location than Kyoto to see cherry blossom, but what’s your favorite location within the city? For me it’s the tree-lined Kita-Shirakawa canal. Heading away from the Path of Philosophy follow it down Imadegawa a ways and you’ll find yourself in a great place for a stroll under the trees. And unlike other locations, it’s a secret! No crowds! There are some nice cafes and galleries along the route as well, such as Shizuku and Riho. It’s a good spot for firefly viewing in June too. Altogether, a great sakura spot (though not so good for picnics). I decided to ask some members of Deep Kyoto’s extended family:

What is your favorite location for viewing cherry blossom in Kyoto?

And this is what they told me: Continue reading