Japan is a country symbolic of temples and shrines. The former capital of Japan, Nara (奈良), played a great cultural importance in shaping the country’s history. It is where majestic temples that are lavishly decorated with different varieties of flowers stand. Many of these temples are located in high areas such as hilltops which make them a great destination for long travels. Here are five of the temples flourishing with gorgeous flowers in the area.
The Hannya-ji Temple is also known as the “Cosmos Temple” as it has lots of cosmos flowers blooming in its precinct. The temple is small and is just within walking distance to a nearby farm and prison. It is quite dark to see inside the main hall so a flashlight is provided. Taking pictures is not allowed inside to maintain the temple’s sanctity. It is said that the original hall that was built in 1667 burned down during a war but has been rebuilt since.
There’s a layer of 13 stones in front of the hall which forms a stone tower and is regarded as the largest one in Japan. At the rear end of the hall is a place where you can find national treasures. If you want to check out the place, you have to pay 500 yen to see all the amazing displays. The temple is also popular for flower viewing, especially during the spring season. About 100,000 cosmos flowers of varying kinds bloom all over the place making it look like a flower paradise.
The temple is very easy to find as there is a big gate in front of it. It is just across the road from the farm Uemura Bokujo (植村牧場). From JR Nara Station (奈良駅), you can take the bus bound for Aoyama Jutaku (青山住宅) then get off at Hannya-ji which takes around 10 minutes.
Hase-dera is a popular temple in Nara which is located on a wooded hillside overlooking a valley. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it is regarded as the main temple of the Buzan sect (豊山派) of Shingon Buddhism (真言宗). The main road going to the temple has a rustic appeal that will remind you so much of old Japan. It is lined by vintage, wooden buildings following the route of the river. Over the river are some red bridges leading to small forest shrines.
The temple is also drawing millions of visitors every year not only because of its sacred architectures but also because of its flowing floral beauty. From late March to early April, sakura trees blossom in the area providing exquisite scenery. Chinese peony season is from mid-April to early May where 7,000 peonies bloom along the temple’s staircase corridor. This is one of the best times to visit the temple. On the other hand, hydrangeas can be seen from mid-June to mid-July which gives the temple a relaxing baby blue aura. During autumn, the Japanese maple trees around the temple also turn bright red.
The temple is only a 15-minute walk from Hasedera Station (長谷寺駅). You can take the Osaka Kintetsu Line (近鉄大阪線) from Osaka Uehommachi Station (大阪上本町駅) or Tsuruhashi Station (鶴橋駅) to reach it.
On the northeastern part of Nara Prefecture is a steep slope where Muro-ji Temple stands. It is actually buried in the midst of large cryptomeria groves. Just like the other temples, it is historically famous for having a large connection with the Shingon sect. However, its location is quite far which makes it less touristy compared to other temples. It is believed that a Buddhist monk named Kenkyo (賢璟) practiced religious austerity by praying very hard inside the temple in order to save the failing Crown Prince of that time. There are so many images being displayed in the temple including the standing statue of Shaka-Nyorai (釈迦如来像), Juichimen-Kan’non (十一面観音立像), Yakushi-Nyorai (薬師如来), etc.
The temple is also known for its five-story pagoda which stands at a 16-meter height, the smallest outdoor pagoda in Japan, but is considered a national treasure. Though it was heavily destroyed by a strong typhoon in 1998, it was completely reconstructed thereafter.
From the middle of April, the temple becomes charming as Shakunage (シャクナゲ) or rhododendron flowers start to bloom. It goes side by side with the refreshing mountain colors surrounding it. If you miss it at this time of the year, you can visit it sometime during October and November wherein the flowers mix with the autumn colors and are very relaxing.
This temple is popular as a nunnery in Nara City. It houses two of Japan’s National Treasures, the Sitting Bodhisattva (木造菩薩半跏像) and a replica of the Tenjukoku Shucho Mandala (天寿国繍帳残闕). In the past, the temple was originally built as a palace. Most of the members who served as head monks or nuns were highly connected to the imperial family.
The aforementioned national treasures are found in the main hall which has been built as a fire-and-earthquake resistant building. It is said to have been originally built in 1968 but has undergone renovations. It is exuding in feminine aura where gracious flowers (yellow yamabuki or Japanese kerria) decorate the place. These are planted in a row around the main building. They are a great sight to see especially in the middle of April! Here, you can also find a pond which makes the whole place at peace with each other. Of course, no photography is allowed in the main hall. Admission fee is usually 600 yen, but if you already bought a ticket to the neighboring Horyu-ji Temple (法隆寺), you could get a discount on your admission to Chugu-ji.
It is said that Sekko-ji Temple was built 1,300 years ago. It is popular for its magnificent collection of peonies which reaches to 3,200 bushes carrying 520 varieties in the middle of April to early May. These peonies also bloom from the end of November to January. It is the head priest who cultivates these flowers in the temple garden. This is the reason why the temple has also been called “Peony Temple.”
The temple is also home to the oldest Buddhist statue made of stone in Japan called Miroku Sekibutsu (弥勒石仏). It was found during one of those typical days when excavation was done to reconstruct the temple’s hall. Admission fee in this temple is 400 yen. It can be accessed on foot from Nijo-Jinjaguchi Station (二上神社口駅) on the Kintetsu Minami-Osaka Line (近鉄南大阪線).
These temples house spectacular displays of flowers which continuously draw visitors from near and far. So if you’re after the wonderful view of the abundance of gorgeous flowers flourishing in the country, might as well head to these temples in Nara. It can also become a way of finding tranquility and peace with your inner self.