Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tachibana-dera Temple

Temple Hondo

Inside the main hall there was a small souvenir shop. Most Temples and Shrines have souvenir shops but this one had it in its Hondo, which is unusual.

Temple bell

Looking in from the outer gate

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tachibana-dera Temple

It is known through archaeolgoical excavation that the temple complex was similar to that of Shitennoji Temple. Most of the temples of this period faced south, but this one unusually faced east, with a middle gate, stupa, golden hall, and lecture hall arranged linearly from east to west. The hole for the central stupa pillar has a unique structure similar to that of Horyuji Temple, with supporting pillars on three sides.

The date it was constructed is unknown, but according to the Shotoku Taishi denreki, suspicious signs accompanying Prince Shotoku's lecture here on a Buddhist text called the Shrimaladevi-sutra led him to build a temple at this location. It is counted as one of the seven temples built by Prince Shotoku. From the patterns of the excavated roofing tiles, it was learned that a small temple building (perhaps a golden hall) was built here in the first half of the seventh century, which was expanded to a large temple in the latter half of the same century.

If you look closely you will notice the symbolic swastika in the center of the cornice. This is an Indian sanskrit symbol. When facing left, it is the omote (front) manji, representing love and mercy. Facing right, it represents strength and intelligence, and is called the ura (rear) manji. Balanced manji are often found at the beginning and end of Buddhist scriptures (outside India)

Prince Shotoku

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tachibana-dera Temple (birthplace of Prince Shotoku)

An enthusiastic promoter of Buddhism, Prince Shotoku established 7 temples in total in his life. This is said to be one of them, and is regarded as the place Prince Shotoku was born. In the 8th century when the temple was founded, it had 66 halls in its precincts. However, now all that remains is the foundation stones of the pagodas and buildings. In the precincts is a marble stone carved with two human faces expressing good and evil.

A bronze statue to the horse that carried Prince Shotoku.

Statues representing the two faces of good and evil (Nimenseki).

Tachibana-dera Temple

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kame-ishi (Turtle Stone)

These historical stones lie around the landscape of Asuka. No one knows their original intent or origin. The stones are open to the environment. Anyone can access them. Amazingly well preserved. This stone was along a bicycle path.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito

"After his victory in the Jinshin War (672), Emperor Tenmu laid the foundation for the Ritsuryo legal system. His wife Empress Jito succeeded him to the throne. He was the first emperor to be cremated, and his remains were buried together with his wife's in the tumulus, known as Hinokuma-ohuchi-no-misasagi. The mound is at present circular in shape, about 58m from east to west, 45m from north to south and 9m in height. It was tunneled into and robbed in 1235, and a document of the time titled Aoki no sanryo ki describes the burial mound, outer chamber, and the interior of the burial chamber. The mound at the time was described as eight-sided and built in five layers, with stone steps around the periphery. The two stone chambers are constructed with dressed stones, and contain the remains of the Emperor Tenmu in a dry lacquer casket, and of Empress Jito in a gilt bronze ossuary."

View from the mausoleum hill

Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito

Empress Jito

The Man'yoshu (Japan's earliest collection of poetry) includes a poem said to have been composed by Jito

After Tenmu's death
Autumn leaves on divine Kamu hill
That our peace-ruling king
Was wont to behold in the evening
And would visit when morning came
Would he not this very day too
Have gone to inquire of them
Would he not then tomorrow as well
Have set his eyes upon them
As I turn my gaze to discern that hill from afar
With the day's waning I am strangely sad
And when morning comes again
I while away the hours with melancholy heart
And the sleeves of my coarse-cloth robe
Have not the time to dry


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rural Asuka

Asuka is a lovely place. The country side is filled with hills and KOFUN.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Takamatsuzuka Tomb

The Takamatsuzuka Tomb or "Tall Pine Tree Ancient Burial Mound" is an ancient circular tomb in Asuka village.

The tomb was built between the end of the the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century. The person buried in the tomb is unknown but the decoration suggests it was a member of the Japanese Imperial Family or a high ranking nobleman. It is also speculated that a high ranking Korean or Chinese emissary may have been buried there.

Takamatsuzuka Historical Site
The tomb itself cannot be seen as it is being restored, there is an excellent replica of the tomb and the artwork on display. No pictures are allowed inside.


Asuka is the cradle of Japanese civilization. It was in Asuka that saw rise to power of the Japanese Imperial family, beginning in the fourth century AD. The first emperor, Jimmu, may be buried in one of the many KOFUN (mound tombs) that dot the area. Asuka is rural and it is best seen by bicycle. You can drive but biking is probably best as many of the back roads are narrow, even for Japanese cars. It is a hilly area and biking is faster than foot travel. Some of the sites can only be accessed by foot or bike.

Asuka Historical Museum

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Shop in Asuka

Outdoor market near bicycle rental shop.

Daikon radish

Kakinoha-Sushi (Sushi wrapped in leaves of Kaki)