This past weekend my wife and I drove out to Nara (again!) to see the flowers in bloom at Hase-dera. We sort of missed the peak, which we caught last year, but nevertheless the amount of color in bloom is simply amazing.
The vast majority of Kansai residents have never been to Hase-dera and its rather inconvenient location takes it off most traveler itineraries. Anyone who makes the trip will be greeted by a UNESCO site easily on par with Kiyomizu-dera up in Kyoto, the Peonia spectacle in May and most importantly, a complete absence of the touristo throng that buries Kyoto on an average long weekend.
Peonias are Botan in Japanese, and there are number of species and even more related species. It gets complicated pretty quick, but without worrying about the science too much you can just enjoy the site.
Hase-dera was built against a mountain-side completely covered in lush green and a magnificent 5-story pagoda accompanies the otherwise Kiyomizu-dera temple design with stage and wide open Okuno-in reminiscent of the Heian Period. I believe that was 8th Century and from whence this marvelous structure dates.
Nearby Muro-ji and endless hiking trails in the woods make a visit well worth an overnight stay at one of local minshuku.
Martin Werner Zander
Smith School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School