Invitation of Peony ,Hase-dera Temple 牡丹の招待状 長谷寺

red, wine red , pink ,white and even green peonies are planted

Flower Leads to Prayer

“Flowers are the invitation from temples.” I don’t remember it well, but a copy like that on an advertisement of a travel firm probably wanted to say that flowers in bloom at temples will promote people to visit there. I think this copy is right. In fact, we worship  in front of Buddha statue and pray for family or friends while we go to see flowers in best season at temples.Temples in Nara have their own popular flowers. For instance, rhododendrons  to Murou-ji Temple, bush clovers to Byakugo-ji Temple and azaleas to Chogaku-ji Temple. And flower early in May is peony. Peony is a synonymous of Hase-dera Temple.

The terrace of Main Hall.The panoramic view from here is picturesque

Present from China

Hase-dera Temple in Sakurai City is bustling during “Peony Festival” from the middle in April to early in May.7,000 peonies welcome visitors that planted in huge premises of the temple. The best view point to see them appears  along the uphill passageway after the entrance gate.This peony has a story. Mezu-bunin , a wife of emperor of Toh Empire, has long face and her nose was like that of horse. As she worshipped Kannon ,a goddes of mercy , at Hase-dera Temple in Japan,her figure got to be attractive. Eventually she presented 10 treasures with peonies as offerings to Hasedera Temple. Since this incident, visitors have offered peonies to the temple

A young monk(right) was preaching in gentle voice.

Priest , Candy’s , Kannon

This temple is located along old highway from Nara to East-Japan. It was founded in 7th century. In Heian period, around 9-12thcentury, when worship to Kannon was in vogue, it was popular for aristocracies in Kyoto. After Muromachi period , it was crowded with common people who were on a pilgrimage to Ise-jingu Shrine through this highway passing this temple. In Edo period, as Shogun family supported this temple, it flourished. Currently it is the headquarter of Shingon-shu Buzan-ha , a group of Buddhism,  that consists of over 3,000 branch temples in Japan.When you visit to temples in Japan, you merely meet monks. It is not unusual. Even we merely see them beside funeral. But here, young monks preached sermon at 2 places. One talked about an woman who was once an idol singer named Candy’s. She was worried about sufferers from the earthquake in 3.11 just before she died of womb cancer. And the monk said he considered her as Kannon. Audience was heard his voice surrounded by peonies and spring sunlight.

Rice-cake making performance.A pounder and a millstone
Temple Town  Sweets 
 
Around a big temple, there is a temple town. Another attraction for visitors to temple is unique experiences in such a downtown. As I like sweets, I ate “Kusa-Mochi.” It is a rice-cake mixed with mugworts stuffed with bean-jam. A performance of rice-cake making inspired me to buy some. It was enough to heal  my fatiguegot by walking a lot.  
 
 
 

sweet bean-jam and bitter mugwort amazingly fit each other.
How to Access 

 From Osaka: Namba St.→Tsuruhashi St.→Hasedera St.: 70 min

From Kyoto: Kyoto St.→Yamato-Yagi St→Hasedera St.: 90 min

 

Rice-cake mixed with mugwort.Being charred and warmed on iron pan

MAP  http://www.pref.nara.jp/nara_e/dd_aspx_menuid-1295.htm

花は祈りへ

 花はお寺からの招待状 だったか。以前見た旅行会社か何かのキャッチコピー。寺の名物花の知らせは、人々に参拝を促す、という意味だろう。これは言い得て妙なコピーで、実際に人は、旬の花を見に寺に赴き、ついでに本尊の前で手を合わせ、家族や大事な人たちのために祈る。奈良の諸寺は、それぞれが寺の名物花をもっている。たとえば室生寺は石楠花(しゃくなげ)、白毫寺は萩(はぎ)、長岳寺は躑躅(つつじ)。そして5月上旬の花といえば、なんといっても牡丹(ぼたん)。牡丹と言えば、長谷寺。

 

中国皇帝妃からの贈り物

 桜井市にある長谷寺は、4月中旬から5月上旬にかけて「ぼたん祭り」でにぎわう。広い境内地に約7000株が植えられた牡丹は大きな花をさかせ、参拝者を迎える。山門をくぐってすぐにのびる長い登り回廊脇が、牡丹見物のハイライト。両側が色とりどりの牡丹で埋め尽くされる。この牡丹には縁起がある。むかし、唐皇帝の妃の馬頭夫人は、顔が長く、鼻は馬の鼻のようだった。容姿に思い悩んだ夫人が海の向こうの日本にある長谷寺の十一面観音に祈ったところ、願いが通じ美貌に生まれ変わった。夫人はお礼として10種類の宝に牡丹を添えて贈ったのだという。以来、参拝者は牡丹の株を寄進してきた。

僧侶、キャンディーズ、観音

 長谷寺は奈良と東国を結ぶ谷の街道沿いにある。創建は7世紀飛鳥時代。平安時代には観音信仰の隆盛で京都の貴族に人気を博し、室町時代以降は大阪からの伊勢参りの道中にあるために庶民で賑わい、江戸時代には徳川将軍家の庇護をうけて栄えた。現在は全国3000以上の末寺をもつ真言宗豊山派の総本山だ。どの寺院に参拝にいっても、行事のときでもない限り、僧侶の姿はほとんど目にしないのが普通。でも長谷寺では境内の2か所で、若い僧侶が法話を説いていた。亡くなられた元キャンディーズの田中良子さんは観音様みたいな人だという話。ガンで死ぬ間際まで、東日本大震災の被災者を心配していた肉声のテープがあるのだという。人々は牡丹と春の陽光に包まれて、その話に耳を傾けていた。

門前町スイーツ

 大きなお寺には、門前町がある。参拝者のもう一つの楽しみは、その門前町でしか体験できない伝統の味。甘いものが好きな私は、長谷名物「草もち」を食べた。草もちとは、餅にヨモギをすりつぶして混ぜ、あんこをつつんだもの。ある店で餅つきの実演をやっていた。つられて買ってしまったのだが、このつき立てのやわらかいのが、本当においしかった。

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About kojiyoshimoto

Born in 1979 and grew up in Nara.Working for a city hall in Nara prefecture after 3 years carrier as an editor of design magazine in Tokyo. Hope my posts you inspire to go abroad to Japan!
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