The Japanese seem pretty oblivious to their rainy season. Unlike Californians, who expect the sky to fall down and get very excited at any prediction of rain, the Japanese simply open their colorful umbrellas, and go on about their business. Raincoats are rarely used. I daily admire the expertise of Kyoto bicyclists as they ride their bikes while holding an umbrella directly overhead that somehow manages to keep them perfectly dry. Even my husband, who always declines to use an umbrella in the USA, has taken to carrying one here too, as long as it’s blue! There are some distinct pleasures to this time of the year. The Heian Shrine in Kyoto is my husband’s favorite. These special places deserve repeated visits, because each visit is different depending on the light, the season or the time of day. So, even though it was raining lightly yesterday afternoon, I easily agreed to visit. Walking alone through the expansive shrine gardens was an experience in entering a gentle, glistening and peaceful emerald-green world of watery abundance.. The famous iris and delicate cherry blossoms of spring have passed on. The summer’s waterlily blooms were few and far between, but just that small touch of color they provided, from the few flowers that were open, was perfectly satisfying. Less is more, as they say! The landscape in the garden is large and grand, so it seemed only right to try for some panorama pics to attempt to capture the lush scene that spread before us. The wonder of a Japanese garden is that it’s a deliberately devious design. Most paths curve, so that with each step, a new view unfolds or reveals itself. At the Heian, many paths lead directly over the water, either with walkways or stone steps, which provides just the right touch of excitement. Note blue umbrella. In many ways, this rainy day provided a more memorable experience than a full on sunshiney, blue sky day. So, I say, let it rain.
The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers. ~Basho
There are two distinct kinds of temple/shrine goers in Japan. One type believes that if you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all. The other’s credo is that it is impossible to find a temple that doesn’t have something to admire. I’m in the latter category.
There’s an affinity in temples and shrines for splendid gardens, sometimes grand, but often intimate. For the temple addict, the beauty of the natural world is heightened by the artistry of the designed landscape. The garden provides inspiration, while the temple or shrine set on site, provides the opportunity to give thanks. It’s a perfect marriage.
An outdoor café sits in the center of the garden. It’s a perfect place to indulge in a chilly green tea shaved ice or a green tea parfait that helps to cool the summer heat.
When I finally bid goodbye to the hydrangeas, I went to visit the temple. I climbed three sets of very steep stone steps, discovering that this ancient structure was framed with hundreds of regal blooming lotus. What a fine day!
Renge-ji temple is a small out- of -the- way Buddhist temple in Kyoto that has resonated in my memory for several years.
In typical Japanese fashion, the garden doesn’t appear to the viewer immediately. The simple unassuming entrance reveals nothing until you turn and enter into the quintessential “room with a view.” Here is a garden that asks nothing more of the viewer than to sit down and open your pores to the scene before you.
For me, viewing this garden is similar to the feeling I’d get as a child when looking into a snow scene in a glass ball , or peeping inside the magic world hidden inside a fanciful sugar Easter egg.
It was raining on my first visit here. The sight and sounds of the rain falling on the pond were mesmerizing. I could feel the earth breathing with me.
On my second visit, it was autumn, under a crystal blue sky. The Japanese maples set the vista aflame with color, reflected brilliantly in the pond water.
On my most recent visit, nature was not showing off, at least not at first glimpse. Now, the young maple leaves spread a chartreuse green swath across the garden.
Although beautiful, the garden didn’t have the same punch for me as it had on earlier visits. I felt mildly disappointed. Then, I was disappointed that I was disappointed. I sat with that disappointment and allowed myself to take in the garden as it was NOW. I watched my disappointment gradually dissipate.
When I lit a stick of incense within the temple, a profound sense of calm had replaced my earlier unease.