"Even in summer's tedium, my heart is moved;
The moon mirrored in the dewdrops on four hydrangea petals."
Fujiwara no Shunzei (1114-1204 )
12th century poet and compiler
仁王門 (Niou-mon) or the gate of dewa, that leads to the entrance to the temple.
One of the best hydrangea garden is hidden in a small town in Matsudo City of Chiba Prefecture. Located just within walking distance from JR Kita-kogane station (JR 北小金駅), Hondoji Temple (本土寺) come to life on June each year with its superb view of hydrangea forest, a suitably mysterious moss garden and a five-tier pagoda, that is said to house one of only a few pieces of Buddha's bone in Japan.
I can't vouch for the bone bit, but I certainly enjoy the flowers and smaller shrines in the complex. The complex has other places of interest, including a Jizō shrine, an Inari shrine and a Benzaiten temple, but its crowning glory is still the hydrangea forest and the iris pond. In June, they cover almost all the precincts of the temple, creating a really awesome sight. That is why it is sometimes dubbed as Meigetsu-in of Matsudo. Meigetsu-in is a temple in Kamakura, which is well-known for its gorgeous hydrangeas nationwide.
As Mr Ishizaki went to get the entry tickets for us, he passed me his long pole with a Chiba Kun (with love) soft toy to me.
Unsurprisingly, a huge guy holding this cute thing invited curious stares from other visitors there lol!
Colourful hydrangea - purple, blue, pink, white, welcomed us as we stepped into the temple (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa).
A small red toori gate, surrounded by greens.
I had a short conversation with Kak Ros on the way to Hondoji, and I told her we will get to see beautiful hydrangea at the temple. She wasn't sure what flower is that. "Bunga tiga bulan," was my short reply, hoping that she will get some rough idea what's gonna greet us at the temple.
"Bunga tiga bulan?! But what's that? I've never heard a flower of such name," she giggly replied me. After some short deliberation, I came to know that hydrangea is also known as Pokok Bunga Siti Zubaidah in Malay language. Hmmm, interesting. I wonder if there will be a flower named Pokok Bunga Siti Nurhaliza lol!
From that short chat, I also came to know that melur and melati refer to the same flower, the latter is how it is called in Indonesian. Okay, I shall cut short on my 30-second botanical lesson hahaha!
A Japanese iris (菖蒲) pond in the middle of the garden.
There is a walkway that cuts through the pond, and there are few benches for visitors to take a short rest in the middle of the pond.
We were a week or two late because some of the iris had dried off. The best time to visit the garden would be the first two weeks of June.
A close-up shot of the white iris, which takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow,
referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species.
White enjoying the beautiful sight of iris, we came across this three-year-old boy,
who will give only one answer to whatever questions we asked him - "wakaranai-yo!" lol!
Hondoji Temple had flourished in the old days as a large Nichiren-Buddhism (日蓮宗) temple. Hondoji used to be a residence that belonged to the Genji family. It was renamed Hondoji by the famous Nichiren, founding father of Nichiren Buddhism, which believes that all people have an inborn Buddha nature and can therefore achieve enlightenment in their current life. You could call it the commoner's Buddhism, as opposed to the elitist Zen or esoteric Shingon schools.
Today this temple, which is also known as the Ajisai Temple (アジサイ寺) is famous for its hydrangea that blooms beautifully around the temple in the month of June every year. In the beginning days, as one of the effort to revive the declining temple, hydrangea was also planted below the cherry blossom trees that were cultivated within the temple area. The hydrangea slowly increased in numbers, and today, there is an estimated of 10,000 hydrangea (紫陽花) plants and 5,000 iris (花菖蒲) plants in this temple.
Hills of hydragea.
And more colourful hydrangea in the garden.
A close-up shot of a blue hydrangea. It is called "Meigetsu-in blue" hydrangea, in reference to the famous hydrangea temple in Kamakura.
Purple hydrangea. In most species the flowers are white, but in some species (notably H. macrophylla),
can be blue, red, pink, light purple, or dark purple. In these species the color is affected by soil pH.
A slightly lighter-tone purple hydrangea. For H. macrophylla and H. serrata cultivars, the flower color can be determined by the relative acidity of the soil:
an acidic soil (pH below 6) will usually produce flower color closer to blue, whereas an alkaline soil (pH above 6) will produce flowers more pink.
Lacecap hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis), which is more looser, more graceful and more subtle in its effect, compared to other types of hydrangea.
Laura and Rochelle surrounded by the hydrangea forest.
There is also a small bamboo forest in this garden.
The main shrine sits on top of this small hill.
This is the main shrine hall of Hondoji Temple.
The famous five-storey pagoda (五重塔), which was built in 1991.
A closer shot of the pagoda, which keeps the Buddha ashes from India and thousands of Buddha statues.
A group photo with the Chiba Kun Ambassadors and staff in front of the pagoda (photo credit: Ayako Uchiyama).
Besides that, this temple is also famous for its autumn foliage around November each year. The blazing red leaves and also magnificent light-up in the evening is something not to be missed. During this seasons, there are mini tours where visitors will get the rare opportunity to visit buildings which are usually not accessible to public, besides hearing to stories from the monks.
Go on a weekend and be surrounded by screaming toddlers. Go on a Monday afternoon and the noise level rises even higher as gangs of senior citizens descend – they hunt in packs – and bossily order their friends to pose for group photos.
Saw this colourful sweet sold at one of the souvenir shops outside the temple.
I took a closer look and the sweets are designed to look like hydrangea! Cool, isn't it?
|| INFORMATION ||
Opening hours: 08:00 - 17:00 (last entry 16:30)Address: 63 Hiraga, Matsudo-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 270-0002, Japan.
Tel: 04-7346-2121 (08:00 - 17:00)
Tel: 04-7341-0405 (available only in Jun & Nov, during the flowering season)
Website: http://www.hondoji.jp/ (Japanese)
Access: Train: Kita-kogane station north exit (北小金駅北口) on JR Jōban Line (JR常磐線): 10 minutes walk.