Sunday, December 12, 2010

Autumn Foliage From Hondoji Temple

A fortnight ago, I made a trip to Hondoji Temple (本土寺) in Matsudo city, a neighbouring city just next to Chiba city for what the Japanese popularly call it as "momijigari" (紅葉狩り). Literally, it means visiting scenic areas where the leaves have turned red, or sometimes orange and yellow. You have "hanami" (花見) in spring, so "momojigari" is the autumn version of "hanami".

There are several nice spots for "momijigari" in Chiba. I chose this place because it was the last day they were having the night illumination at the temple. From the photos I saw, it looked like a place worth paying a visit. Plus, it takes less than an hour to reach this temple from my place by train.

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The hand-written information board about the night illumination. The red words says that entrance ticket from day time visit cannot be re-used for night time. 
Damn smart wanna eat our money two times haha!

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A small shop which looks very much like a coffee shop but it doesn't sell coffee, instead you get soba and green tea here lol!
Outside the shop, various kinds of pickles are sold.

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Noticed a long queue from afar at this stall that sells 串団子 (kushi dango). It's not common to find green dango, so I decided to give it a try.

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The dango are baked for several minutes on a charcoal stove to give them some slight crisp and later topped with either anko (red bean paste) 
or kurumi miso (walnut miso).

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I chose kurumi miso as the topping. One stick for 300 yen (±RM10)

Similar to cherry blossoms in spring, the red autumn leaves don't last long and the best viewing time is usually limited to only one to two weeks. Hence, during this peak period, every popular autumn foliage spot in Japan is usually crowed with the locals and tourists. When I was there, it was a Sunday and also the final day where they had the night illumination.

Hence, it was not surprising to see human beings all around me. Basically, the people there can be categorised into three main groups - parents with their kids, couples, and photography enthusiast who normally comes from the golden generation haha!

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仁王門 (Niou-mon) or the gate of dewa, that leads to the entrance to the temple.

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Some blazing red Japanese maple trees at the gate.

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Yup, there is an entrance fee to visit this temple. 

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Five-storied pagoda (五重塔), which was built in 1991.

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The main building of the temple - 本堂 (Hondou). 
 
Hondoji temple is a Nichiren-Buddhism (日蓮宗) temple, which is also known as the Ajisai Temple (アジサイ寺) as the Hydrangea blooms beautifully around the temple in the month of June every year.

My initial thought was that this temple is just like any other normal temples in Japan. A main building, a pagoda, several smaller worshiping halls, and a temizuya. However, I was surprised by its spacious area upon walking through the entrance gate. So, it's very easy to get lost inside the temple, especially for a first timer like me. But thank God I didn't get lost this time haha!

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A macro shot of the fallen dried leaves.

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A striking contrast between the green bamboo trees and the red and yellow maple trees. 

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A Japanese iris (菖蒲) pond. It is autumn so the leaves are dried. I bet this place looks really beautiful come spring.

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Red and green offer great contrast.

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Yellow ginkgo tree and red leaves from the maple tree.

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Spot-lights fixed on the branches for the night illumination.

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Some of the leaves were still green; they should turn yellow in another few days.

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I think not every maple leaves turn red. I spotted some yellow ones too.

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Without any sophisticated lenses or camera, this is the most I am able to shoot.

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A dragon statue that appears from the ground. Some visitors washed their coins with the water from the dragon's mouth.

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According to one of the workers at the temple, this is the temple's most beautiful spot.

Soon, it began to get dark and cold. Some of the visitors, including me, thought that perhaps we could just hang around there until the night illumination starts at six in the evening. However, we found out that they do not allow us to do that. They made sure nobody is inside the temple before they closed the gate to prepare the place for the night illumination. In other words, we gotta get another entrance ticket again later that evening =.=

While waiting for the gate to open for the night entry, I went back to the coffee shop to kill some time. It was really cold, so I got myself a cup of tea and matcha manju (抹茶饅頭) and keep myself warm there. 

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Pickles still on sale at this hour. These pickles might not taste our taste bud, but it's like ulam and sambal belacan to the Japanese.

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Matcha manju. Looks like a green pau.

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The filling is made of matcha as well.

The entrance fee for the night illumination is supposed to be the same as the day time entrance; 500 yen for adult and 300 yen for primary school students. However, when I paid at the counter with a 500 coin, that guy gave me back 200 yen in return. Does that mean I got the ticket on primary student's price?

However, looking at my elephant size, it should be very obvious, isn't it? Hmmm, weird. Very weird.

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Since I already understand the layout of the temple, I knew exactly where to head to first; somewhere different from the rest of the other visitors.

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No, not to the toilet lol! But anyway, doesn't the toilet look nice haha!

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The spot I headed to was 弁天堂 (Bentendou), where it is surrounded by a small man-made lake. The water was not moving at all, which provided a great reflection surface of the illuminated red maple trees.

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To be honest, this is as good, if not better than the reflection lake I saw at Lake Matherson in New Zealand recently. The wait for several hours earlier
that evening was certainly worth it.

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The bamboo tress in the background were also illuminated. 

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The five-story pagoda during night time.

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The Buddha ashes from India and thousands of Buddha statues are kept inside this pagoda.

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And finally, visitors were still praying at the main building of the temple at night.

Don't worry, they are real humans.

16 comments:

Ken said...

Ur pics are great although u're using a compact camera. Time to change to DSLR lo. I guess DSLR in Japan would be quite cheap compared to M'sia right? Haha...

Do Japanese have Momijigari picnic?

calvin said...

@ ken:
not enough budget-lar, brother. so, still stay faithful to my compact camera(s). plus, the quality is quite satisfying =D

i guess there isn't much difference in terms of price after you convert them. perhaps there are more choices over here in japan. anyway, not really sure because i am quite a dlsr noob lol!

yes, i've seen families and friends in groups having picnic while "admiring" the momiji haha!

MeLia said...

The dango look like green stone :P
Anyway, I love the photo of the leaves.. Nice Autumn!!

mg said...

awesome pics from LX5!!! :) btw, wanna try the matcha pao. sooo niceee...

Cliff CLF said...

u changed cam ah Calv?

calvin said...

@ melia:
haha, now that you have mentioned it, i think they look like green stones too. more like green jade, perhaps? xD

calvin said...

@ mg:
so, is the difference obvious? good if it's a yes :D
i purposely bought that matcha pao, to make you jealous :P

calvin said...

@ cliff clf:
errr, not really but just got another new one ;)

D-T said...

Nice autumn foliage !!! :)

calvin said...

@ d-t:
yes, it was!

MeLia said...

Yaya.. But Green jade gt a bit white colour... Anyway, how does it taste?? Green bean....?

calvin said...

@ melia:
just add some powdered sugar to get the white effect xD

nothing extraordinary to be honest, just like some sticky cake made from rice flour. it has a slight matcha flavour though ;)

MeLia said...

Haha... Then U try to do by putting a bit of powder sugar on it and then post at FB as ur dinner :p ..
Ya.. I think so by seeing it... Then better eat mochi.... :)

calvin said...

@ melia:
i might give it a try one day and tell you how it turns out :P

sakura said...

ur camera's sooo nice...
n it's a compact rite? unbelievable leh.. even nite shots r great!

calvin said...

@ sakura:
yup, this was also taken using the new camera.
those night shots were taken without a tripod, but i did place the camera on something when taking some of the photos =)