Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, May 05, 2006


The Meigetsu-in (literally Full Moon Temple) is a famous site in Japan. The following is an excerpt, extracted from a tourist article on the temple. The place is around 700 years old. Notice how the steps are worn. The temple is also known as the Hydrangea Temple, for the beautiful flowers that grow there. Please visit the link by clicking on the title of this post, learn more about the temple, and enjoy the additional pictures.

Historical Overview

According to the Temple's records, its origin dates back to 1159 when a warrior living near here was killed at a battle between the Minamoto and the Taira Clans. His son built a small temple here to console the souls of the departed father as well as other war-dead, dedicating a statue of
Nyoirin {nyo-e-rin} Kan'non (Cintamani-cakra in Skt.) to it.

In 1256, Fifth Regent Tokiyori Hojo {toh-key-yoh-re hoh-joe} (1227-1263), who also lived in this neighborhood, stepped down from the Regency at the age of 29, and entered priesthood under the leadership of Doryu Rankei {doh-ryu ran-kay} (1213-1278), a Chinese Zen priest whom Tokiyori invited to Kamakura and nominated as the founding priest of Kenchoji. At the same time, Tokiyori built a small prayer hall and named it Saimyoji {sigh-myo-gee}. This hall was, however, abolished after he died several years later.

It was Tokimune {toh-key-moo-neh hoh-joe} Hojo (1251-1284), Tokiyori's son and the Eighth Hojo Regent, who erected a full-fledged temple in 1268 near his father's prayer-hall to hold religious services. (Tokimune is also known as the founder of Engakuji.) The new temple was called Zenkoji {zen-koh-gee}. Records narrates that at the memorial service held in 1323 at Engakuji for Sadatoki {sah-dah-toh-key hoh-joe} Hojo (1271-1311), the Ninth Hojo Regent, Zenkoji dispatched as many as 90 priests.

The structures of Zenkoji was expanded in 1383, and included among the sub-temples was Meigetsu-in built by Norikata Uesugi (1335-1394), then Vice Governor of Kamakura. He appointed Shugon Misshitsu (?-1390) to be the founding priest. He was a six-generation down disciple of Priest Rankei. Meigetsu-in was named after Norikata's posthumous name and became the family temple of the Uesugis in Yamanouchi district of Kamakura. (Meigetsu denotes a full moon). Zenkoji continued to thrive until the late 16th century getting patronage from the rulers then in power. However, it did not necessarily flourish thereafter with no specific supporters, and finally was on the verge of abolishment in the face of the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868. Making Shinto the state religion, the new government clamped down on Buddhist temples. Only sub-temple Meigetsu-in managed to survive, and that is what we see today.


The flower that makes the Temple famous is Ajisai {ah-gee-sigh} or hydrangea, and the namesake of "Ajisai-dera" or Hydrangea Temple. Counting approximately 2,000, these Hydrangea grow in the temple grounds and line the pathways. But, those Ajisai were planted after World War II, and it was only in the 1970s that people began to flock in the Temple to see them. During the rainy season from mid-June to late July, when nearly 20,000 flowers, mostly blue, are in full bloom, the Temple is awfully crowded on weekends with visitors as many as the number of flowers. Had better avoid this season if you seek quiet atmospheres. Other flowers planted in the temple grounds are:

Early January to mid February: Suisen {sooy-sen} or narcissus
Mid January to late February: Rohbai {roh-bye} or winter sweet
Mid March: Hakumokuren {hak-mok-ren} or yulan
Late March to early April: Momo or peach
Late March to early April: Rengyo or weeping forsythia
Late March to mid April: Shokassai {sho-kas'-sigh} or Orychophragmus violaceus

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