Plum Blossoms

Recently, the Buddhist temple Yakushi-ji in Nara, Japan posted this update on their Twitter feed: When most people think of Japan, they think of cherry blossoms, specifically sakura (桜) cherry blossoms. However, while cherry blossoms usually appear sometime between March to May depending on climate, variety, etc, another famous flowering tree blooms slightly eariler: uméContinue reading “Plum Blossoms”

Spring On Its Way

It is mid-January, deep in “small cold and big cold”, but already signs of life are returning to the yard, and the world around us. Inspired, I found this old Japanese waka poem (originally posted in my other blog) composed by a female poet named kunaikyō (宮内卿), also called wakakusa no kunaikyō (若草の宮内卿). This poem,Continue reading “Spring On Its Way”

Time and Romance

From the 14th century Japanese text, “Essays in Idleness” (tsurezuregusa 徒然草), composed by Buddhist monk Kenkō: 26) When I recall the months and years I spent as the intimate of someone whose affections have now faded like cherry blossoms scattering even before a wind blew, I still remember every word of hers that once soContinue reading “Time and Romance”


Speaking of the moon, October in Japanese Buddhism, specifically the Jodo Shu sect of Buddhism is an important time called jūya-e (十夜会), meaning “Ten Nights observance”. It is also sometimes known as: jūya hōyō (十夜法要, “ten night Buddhist sermon”) jūyakō (十夜講 “ten night lecture”) jūya nenbutsu (十夜念仏, “ten night nembutsu“), or more formally jūnichi jūyaContinue reading “Juya-E”

Summer Winding Down

Summer in 2020 came and went probably like no summer in recent memory. Ignoring the painful facts for a moment that there’s a global pandemic, politics are pretty bat-shit crazy, and the economic woes, and my stress level was through the roof, it was a quiet and low-key summer. Hunkering down for the summer hadContinue reading “Summer Winding Down”

Sugawara no Michizane: from scholar to god

Shinto religion in Japan is a loose network of local deities (kami) and traditions of diverse origins, and one of those most unusual and yet popular is a kami named Tenjin, the god of learning. Tenjin is unusual because he is a deified version of an actual historical figure named Sugawara no Michizane who livedContinue reading “Sugawara no Michizane: from scholar to god”