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



 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。









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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