Sunday, April 20, 2008


Daigoji Hanami

Our hanami excursion actually started at Daigoji, a temple of the Shingon sect, which houses a famous garden often considered one of the three most beautiful in Japan. The garden was built for Hideoyoshi, who held a cherry blossom viewing party here in 1598. Photos of the garden are not permitted, but I've managed to swipe one from the wonderful internet (though you should also look at these photos of one traveler's Saigoku Pilgrimage).

Obviously, this garden photo was taken in the summer, and not the spring.

On a side note, a taxi driver we met not long after visiting Daigoji informed us that Hideyoshi was known to have tacky taste, and that the garden at Daigoji wasn't really that beautiful. He advised us to go to Ginkakuji.

In addition to its famous garden, Daigoji is aslo known for its wooden pagoda, built in 951.

This old tree was truly in mankai, or full bloom. It seemed almost to be reaching out to us, a fact that is somewhat lost in this photograph.

To help support its many branches, a careful network of supporting beams has been erected under the tree. This is not an uncommon sight in Japan.

It is moving to see how much care can go into supporting a living thing that is neither human (nor pet dog). It also has the effect of reminding you that trees are very much alive.

I took this photo because it seemed as though a tidal wave of blossoms was about to take over the rooftop.

I was constantly trying to take the perfect rooftop-meets-blossom photo. But I am not a great photographer. Still, this gives you some sense of contrasting colors and textures.

These trees strike dramatic shapes, as though the branches are in mid-pose, like a girl tossing her hair. I also thought of that scene in the Wizard of Oz were the apple trees hurl their fruit at Dorothy. I also though of massive tarantulas, or a priest's horsetail whip. It's all a little bit eerie, though beautiful.

The real Hana Yori Dango.

After a while, the cherry trees start to drive you a little bit crazy.

Happy hanami goers dressed in carefully selected colors for the season.

(You can click on any of these photos to see a slightly enlarged version.)

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