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Weeping cherry Yoshino

Fire ceremony


Indigo dyeing

Room in Kongobuji on Mount Koya

In a Japanese garden

Springtime in the Heart of Japan

April 2006


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 geiko.

Ishibutai imperial tumulus

Cycling in Asuka

Asuka Ruby strawberry binge

Shimenawa straw rope at a shrine on the Yamanobe no Michi.

Chatting to kids in Nara

White camellia - favoured by tea master Sen no Rikyu


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