Springtime in the Heart of Japan
We were fortunate in April to see the cherries in full bloom in
Yoshino, as well as in Asuka, Nara, and Kyoto. The cherry blossom
surrounding the Ishibutai imperial tomb in Asuka was stunning, as
you can see from the photo. It was an amazing experience being there
as the fresh wind carried clouds of pale pink petals into the air
over the massive slabs of rock (weighing about 2,300 tons in total)
used to build the tomb.
Rising early on the first morning at our temple on Mount Koya,
we witnessed a fire ceremony in the main hall before the morning
sutra recital. The fuel was small wooden votive sticks with supplications
written by the few people participating in the ceremony Given that
nearly every important temple and pagoda in Japan has burnt down
at least once, it seems strange that monks would build an open fire,
without a proper hearth or chimney, inside such an important cultural
treasure as the temple we stayed in.
We spent a couple of nights at a minshuku in Asuka run by a charming
76-year woman who was not only pleased to have us stay, but thrilled
to have a guest who was six months pregnant! She made us feel quite
at home with her delicious cooking and conversation.
We had the opportunity to do some indigo aizome dyeing in Asuka.
Ai, indigo, is the colour used to produce the traditional very dark
blue fabrics commonly seen in Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan. A big
box of locally grown strawberries, which in Japan ripen 3 months
earlier than at home, fortified us as we hiked the 16km along the
Yamanobe no michi from Sakurai to Tenri.
A highlight of the tour was staying in the heart of Gion, one of
the old geisha quarters, in Kyoto, and getting tickets to see the
Miyagawa Kaburenjo theatre spring dances performed by maiko and