Monday, April 21, 2014

Weeping sakura and Dancing Maikos at the Heian Jingu shrine in Kyoto

After seeing sakura in Ninna-ji -- Chieko san had another surprise up her sleeve -- the next stop was the Heian Jingu shrine where she said that more sakura could be viewed.

Given that almost everything in Kyoto seems to be many many centuries old,  Heian Jingu can be called a "baby" as it was only built  in the late 1800s to commemorate Kyoto's 1100th anniversary
Despite its relative "youth" the vermillion lacquered Otenmon, the main gate is very imposing and impressive and quite a sight to see.

This is the Daigoku-den or main hall.  Chieko san said that today was our lucky day -- not only would we see more sakura, but there was a festival in the shrine's grounds and we would get a chance to watch some traditional performances.

Behind the main building of the shrine are several connected gardens which showcase the flowers of Kyoto through the different seasons.  While visiting the grounds are free, like Ninna-ji there is a fee to enter the gardens.  

This is  Chieko san and I as we are about to start our stroll through the gardens of Heian Jingu.

Shidare sakura or weeping cherry blossoms grow plentifully in Heian Jingu's gardens.  
The row upon row of  clusters of drooping light pink and white sakura is so pretty and fetching.  
In Ninna-ji, I thought shidare sakura felt slightly melancholy but given the profuse blooms in Heian Jingu, I changed my  mind -- they no longer seemed sad at all.

There are less crowds in these gardens.  The gardens are bigger and the sakura are planted further apart. Trellises have been built to support the blossom laden branches.  As we walked through the path, a slight breeze showered sakura petals on us.  Completely delightful!

Aside from the shidare sakura, other varieties are still in the last stage of their bloom.

I am  captivated by this young couple in traditional dress albeit pushing a modern trolley between them.  They have come out in costume to view the sakura and I surmise that the trolley holds their "normal" clothes, to change back into after this brief interlude.

This little pond is strewn with the fallen petals of the shidare sakura that grow around it.  It may look imperfect with a slight air of decay but it is a charming aesthetic nonetheless.

The pond winds through the gardens and there are ducks rooting about in the water.

As we walked through the gardens, I looked up to see this tangle of sakura -- with three colours, white, pink and light green.

These are the ukon sakura -- in shades of light yellow to green.  I think it's my favourite of all.

This bright pink variety is called the kanzan sakura.  If the yama sakura has only five petals, the kanzan sakura can have as many as 30 to 50 petals per blossom.

We ended our walk through the gardens to come upon this peaceful and lovely scene -- a tea house at the edge of the pond with ladies in Japanese kimono having tea right under the weeping sakura.

 Just as we exited the gardens, a dance performance of maiko or geishas-in-training had just started at the grounds.  The brightly hued Otenmon gate in the background made for a very striking and dramatic effect.

I was completely enthralled watching these two young girls dance so expressively and exquisitely. Accompanied by musicians playing traditional string instruments,  it was a performance that we were  privileged to have seen.

 It was mid afternoon when we left Heian Jingu.  We walked past this massive vermillion torii that  marks the entrance to shrine  -- replete with sakura and the remarkable beauty of Kyoto.

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