Hydrangea Mania

Today was a rare day off for the Maction Planet team, and we decided to spend it conducting some tourism! It really is in our DNA. So, off we went to Kamakura, one of our favourite ‘Beyond Tokyo‘ destinations, to see the Ajisai – Hydrangeas – at Meigetsu-in. As you can see from the photos, we were not the only ones!

Meigetsu-an, as it was originally known (lit. the Bright Moon Hermitage) was founded in 1160 (the late Heian Period) by Yamanounchi Tsunetoshi as a place for the soul of his father to rest. Yamanouchi Toshimichi had died a year earlier in the Taira and Minamoto clans’ power struggle. It was this long power struggle that led to The Genpei War of 1180-1185 and the fall of the Taira clan. Kamakura then became the capital of Japan, holding that honour from 1185 to 1333.

In 1256, a new temple called Saimyoji was built on the site by Hojo Tokiyori, the Fifth Hojo Regent of the Kamakura Shogunate. 

This Saimyoji temple was the predecessor to another temple, Zenkoji. As Zenkoji expanded, Meigetsu-an became Meigetsu-in and was designated a subsidiary of Zenkoji.

Fast forward to 1867. Zenkoji was abolished as part of the anti-Buddhist wave that came with the Meiji Restoration. Thus, all we have is Meigetsu-in, and that is not all bad, as it is one of Kamakura’s most beautiful temples. It currently belongs to the Kenchoji Branch of the Rinzai Zen Sect.

The temple has become famous by a second name, Ajisai-dera. Over 90% of the Hydrangeas are Princess Hydrangeas, Hime Ajisai – basically, the blue type! Even the ema (votive tablets) are decorated with Ajisai. There is general Ajisai goodness everywhere.

The temple was incredibly crowded. Queues wound their way along every path leading up to the Main Hall. The crowds were gathered to take the classic shot looking through the circular window at the end of the main hall into the garden beyond, where the irises are blooming. A good zoom lens is required to make them out, but for those without one, the temple has placed some beautiful examples in full view in front of a gorgeous gold screen.

Irises aside, everyone was there for the Hydrangeas which were just stunning; whether held by a Jizo statue, or viewed with the backdrop of the temple’s bamboo grove.

Sadly the day had to come to an end for everyone, but many were not ready to face the death of a party. As you can see from our photo, one man had the job of ushering the Ajisai fanatics slowly towards the exit as they tried to sneak in one final shot of the beautiful flowers.

Combined with an hour of Zazen and chanting at neighbouring Engakuji, it was a wonderful way to spend a fine Saturday during rainy season. Let’s hope the rains keep holding off!

Maction Planet takes guests ‘Beyond Tokyo‘, to the great towns and cities that border The World’s Greatest Metropolis – Kamakura, Enoshima, Yokohama, Nikko, Kawagoe, Omiya, and more! As always, everything can be fully-customised within your own Private Tour. Get in touch with us at info@mactionplanet.com to arrange yours. 

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