Category Archives: Shrine and Temple

Walking Through the Pink Clouds

While Yoshino is a beautiful area throughout the entire year, it is perhaps most famous for its cherry blossoms that bloom every spring on Mt. Yoshino. There are so many that it feels like a fantasy world. As we climb up and down paths surrounded by these flowers, a cool breeze might blow a wave of petals off the branches and around our heads. As we climb higher, we might get a great view of the flowers and trees on the mountains around us as well, which always makes me feel like I am walking through the clouds.

If you visit large parks, riversides, or other places at this time of year, you are likely to see many people picnicking around these beautiful flowers. When I first came to Japan as a student, one of my favorite experiences was gathering at a park with my school club and enjoying the cherry blossoms. There were so many people who had come to the park, that we ended making many new friends. Cherry blossoms have a unique power in that way. They help us relax a little, take a break from our busy every day lives, and enjoy the moment.

With the cherry blossoms in full bloom, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy Mt. Yoshino. In addition to walking through these pink clouds, we have a tour that will let you feel the history of this mountain in its many temples and shrines. Just ride the Kintetsu Yoshino Line to the end of the line, and step into our blooming world of wonder.


No. 330 – An Introduction to Yoshinoyama (Uphill Course)



One Moment, First Moment

The first thing I learned about Japanese tea ceremony was the principal of “one moment, one time”. Every ceremony occurs on at a unique time, on a unique day, with unique participants, weather, sensations, and circumstances. It was this principal that drew me into the red sunset during my first tea ceremony atop a mountain in northern California. That one moment and time would serve as my inspiration to study and learn more about this ancient Japanese practice.
On the surface, there are specific rules and a set order. These things took me some time to learn and be comfortable with. Sitting in the traditional seiza position with my knees folded under me also took some time to get used to. However, in learning and practice, I gradually understood the concept of gratitude that is fundamental in the ceremony. The host is grateful for the guests taking their time to join the ceremony, and the guests are grateful for all of the time and effort the host has put into the ceremony as well. More than anything, I was always grateful for the moment and time I was able to spend with everyone on that tatami floor.
We offer some programs that allow you to drink tea in a historic Zen temple. The temple itself was designed specifically for tea ceremony, so this is a great place to learn about this traditional Japanese practice. This program can be enjoyed by anyone, but I think you will enjoy it even more if you study in advance. Whether it is your first moment or your hundredth moment, I am sure you will have a very special, unique experience.

No. 196 Tea Ceremoney at Jiko-in Zen Temple with Private Transfer  

Warming Up at Hasedera Temple

Many famous shrines and temples in Japan have an “omotesando” street, a street with many traditional foods, souvenirs, snacks, etc. that leads everyone up to the entrance. Hasedera Temple in Sakurai City, Nara is no different. After my first visit to the temple yesterday, I strolled down this street and enjoyed the sights, smells, and sounds of all of the local specialties unique to southern Nara. As the short season of colorful leaves comes to an end, the days become a little cloudier and colder. Thankfully, there were a few local dishes that helped keep me warm.

Somen noodles originate from an area called Miwa in Sakurai City, so Miwa Somen is a popular choice for people who visit this region. Though ramen, udon, and soba are well-known abroad, somen noodles are very popular in Japan. They are thin, light, and versatile, as they can be served chilled as a cool summer meal, or in a warm broth with other ingredients in the cold winter days.

I also found a quick, warm snack in kusa-mochi, or “grass mochi”. It is made by mixing mochi with wormwood leaves, giving it a crisp flavor and soft, green color. They are filled with purple anko bean paste, which is common in other traditional Japanese sweets as well. Though you can packages of kusa-mochi in some grocery stores or souvenir shops, my favorite way to eat them is hot off the grill.

The owner of the shop spoke with me while cooked up a few pieces for me. These small treats may not make it into a Michelin guide or travel documentary, but for me, this is what the Japan experience is all about.

Sitting on a bench outside the shop, eating kusa-mochi, and drinking bancha tea, I felt like I caught a glimpse into how locals appreciate daily life.

On this same street is also a gallery called Hase-kura, or “Hase Storehouse”. In addition to displaying many original creations, this gallery also offers a program for visitors to design their own hand-made lantern. Visitors can take their time cutting their own traditional words or designs for the lanterns, and can easily take it home with them as their very own personal gift. If you are interested in giving it a try on your next visit to Hasedera Temple, please check out the page below for more program information (sorry, we currently only have information in Japanese).

No. 452 Hand-made Lantern Experience near Hasedera Temple

Seasonal Flower – Hydrangea

Hydrangea is known as “flower of rain season(June-July)”.

Each Hydrangea has different color and it depends on concentration of pH in the soil.
The contrast between color of Hydrangea and nostalgic buildings in temples is worth of seeing. Especially Yatadera-temple (Yamato Koriyama city) is famous as Hydrangea temple in Kansai region. Hydrangea garden is opening by July and you can see 60 kinds and 10,000 Hydrangeas.

~Yatadera Temple~


Sinyakushi-ji Temple (New Pharmacist Temple)

Sinyakushi-ji Temple was established for curing the illness of Emperor-Shoumu by Komyo empress.
This temple is located the area of Takabatake in Nara Park.
In Nara period Shinyakushi-ji had Golden (main) hall, East and West Towers. Moreover it was located next to the Todai-ji Temple according to the pictorial diagram called ‘Todaiji Sankai Shii-zu (painting of mountain border of four path to Todai-ji Temple)’ dated 756 .
Seven Tathagatas of pharmacist were made with the bodhisattvas Suryaprabha and Candraprabha. The Seven Tathagatas were built the center, and the Bodhisattvas were the aside.
After the construction, several natural disasters hit on them. Followed by thunderbolt in 780(damage to the West Tower), and the typhoon in 967(downfall to the Golden main hall.) Furthermore Heike(the Taira family) Great Fire made the temple destructed.
Main temple building is still remains from Nara period. Many researchers suppose it was used to be the dining area. This building got the Japanese character of Tenpyo (ancient era of Japan.) National Treasured Twelve Guardian is the one of the best in Tenpyo period, and standing around the principal image to protect from enormities. That is the reason of why the guardian are showing their back to the principal image. All got different postures to guard the area.
Yakushi-Nyorai (Tathagatas of pharmacist) seems to relieve the sufferings one by one with right way. She is really mother-like.
Nara Wintter experience got “the priests are guiding early-morning exhibition to Main temple building of National Sin-Yakushiji Temple, and Koyakushi-do (incense medical area) where normally limited to enter.
The secret Buddha of Otama-Jizo was found the Heisei-reparment inside of Kagekiyo-Jizo. Both are almost same size and that was unusual case.
People pray two Jizo for easy-birth and health.