Friday, 31 October 2014

Instagramy October 2014 Part 2

It's been a bit mental over here so I am just dropping in to say hello and catch my blogging breath.
Haven't been to the park for my daily walk much but it's been the warmest October since some year which is supposed to mean something.

But I discovered there is archery just behind Kensington Palace.
And there were these magnificent hedges on the path that leads to the Orangery.

This was very Dr Who.
This public phone booth meant to engage with the police is situated right in front of the US embassy in Mayfair.
The only person you could reach on that phone would be E.T.

Mercury retrograde being what it is I went excitedly to see Manon that was supposed to feature both Carlos Acosta and Roberto Bolle but Bolle got injured in rehearsal.
So I had a drink at the bar and left at intermission.

I went to check out the new Phillips auction house in Mayfair.
I bet the interns had to line up those chairs at least three times.

Had amazing free coffee at the top floor.
Looked down on Mount Street and Mayfair on a beautiful sunny day on their terrace.

These girls don't suffer from body dysmorphia.  
Art does indeed inspire.

I love this little spot which is as close to a piazza in London.

This is the philosophical path part of Hyde Park.

London never got the whole Halloween thing when I first got here but times have changed.

Had a blogger meet up with the Curator now the doyenne of whom I have already met but finally got to meet delightful Tabitha from Badinage and lovely Alexandra from
Boutiquebootcamp at the Beaumont Hotel.

It's Christmas already. 
I reckon the retail Christmas season will start right after 
Easter next year.

Went to the V&A and walked by these jewels that some English military bloke got from his spoils in India.  Apparently the whole loot was sold off and given to the government and he was allowed to keep one huge emerald and made the set of four pieces from the one emerald.

I can't imagine what the whole loot looked like.

The exhibition I went to see was the 
Russian Avant Garde Theatre Design Exhibit.

In itself, it seems like a niche area but in fact this sector probably spawned the arts in general from architecture in set design to costume design to the sketches submitted.

There was a little hut in the courtyard that caught my eye,

Looks inviting but you can't enter.

It was the imaginary shed of Paul Smith of his wish for a comfortable seat and a view.

Had a great croissant in their cafe.

But I couldn't decide for the life of me which area to sit in because

they were all so beautiful.

I love a colorful border hedge.

I love a classic library.

There was also a revolutionary slogan exhibit and
 this was my favorite.

Happy Halloween guys!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Kyoto's Saihoji Temple and its 700 year old Moss garden ( Koko-dera )

I travel with a strict balance of planning ahead and winging it.
Truth be told I prefer spontaneity and I just like to walk and see what I find.
But Kyoto is a formal city and it doesn't really like drop in visits.

On the way to our destination that was on the outskirts of Kyoto, we passed by promising signs that the garden might live up to expectations.

Isn't this main door to a private residence magazine worthy?
We were so lucky to be in Kyoto as the leaves were turning.  
The leaves were earlier by a few weeks than normal which was fortuitous and there are two high seasons in Kyoto: one is the cherry blossom season and the other is the changing of the autumn leaves.
We were headed to the Zen Buddhist temple called Saiho-ji that has a garden that that was originally founded in 749 as a villa for one of the ancient royal family members but was turned into the present function in 1339.
The entrance had the usual austerity of a Zen temple.
It was also very strict in other ways.
You had to get pre-approval to gain entry.

One has to write a handwritten letter to the temple with your personal details but also an enclosed addressed stamped postcard for them to then send you their invite.

No last minute planning there.
So my friend in Australia had to send the letter as the UK don't do self-addressed postage for overseas letters.

The price is the equivalent to US $30 for one person.
It isn't cheap compared to even the private gardens in the UK hence this temple makes millions of dollars a year in admission fees.
Then just when you think I have walked in and now I can just be on my way and take some snaps,
you are reminded that you have to join / sit through a Buddhist chanting ritual.
One waits in a holding hall and then are ushered in the main temple to sit on the tatami floor. with a desk with information, 
the prayer book in Japanese, and a calligraphy pen with a bamboo stick where you can write a wish.

I can read the two basic Japanese alphabets and 
wasn't reading the Chinese characters but they were all reading so fast that I just had to hum the rest.
The ritual was done by two Buddhist monks and 
took about twenty minutes.

The theory behind this is that they want you in a right frame of mind before you enter the garden.
In Japan, most temples will have a natural spring water source where you can also clean your hands and rinse your mouth.
While it seems obvious the garden in Asia and 
particularly in Japan is a form of meditation.
The cultivation and maintenance of a garden is a reminder and symbolic of the change of seasons, the cycle of growth, death and renewal, the impermanent nature of things.
Even the curvature of a path and the rocks laid out was considered in meaning and function by all the monks who created and maintained this garden.
( Straight paths are avoided as feng shui principles dictate that evil spirits travel in straight lines.)
The revered master gardener was also a monk called 
Muso Suseki.
He was part of the aristocracy and the most revered Zen teacher and created not only this garden but numerous other famous and acclaimed gardens.
Many of the features and the placements of the tea house and rills are still in place according to the Muso's plans from the 1300's.
Interestingly, the new name of the Moss temple is a new name.
 It was due to the moss having grown in the gardens during the turbulent and huge change during the Meiji period.
This was the era Japan was slowly shedding the shogunate system and opening its borders.

The garden now contains about 120 varieties of moss.

But this garden has had other guardians such as the famous monk called Honen who was another pivotal and influential figure in Japanese Buddhism.
I know that many tourists to Kyoto don't make it here because most don't realize the protocol involved in visiting one of the most famous sites in the city.
So this is just a sharing post for you to see the gardens.
I have posted the pictures in the order as I took them as the path is one way and it encircles the grounds.
I will do another garden post only because even though I myself am not a huge gardener, Kyoto has the most amazing gardens.
Those with green thumbs or with historical interest of garden design among the readers will know that 
Kyoto is to gardens what Rome is to churches.
This garden is important in its historic significance and for being one of the oldest continuously used gardens in the world.
It also shows how to create a feature of something that was originally not wanted but now is famous for moss.
In fact so much so that there are many Japanese gardens that copy this style.
While I hope you also get the chance to go, 
I hope it inspired some gardeners and others to try and use something negative and turn it into a positive feature.
I couldn't get an answer to when the rowboat was installed as the lake isn't really so vast it needs a boat that size but it was more of a meditative and contemplative feature.
The feature made sense once I walked into the tea house that was just opposite.
When one sits to sip tea...
one looks out onto the rounded window that frames the view of the rowboat.
What was so interesting for a novice in garden design like me was that the garden was a guided one way path.
It was not an open garden with multiple routes 
but a gentle guide and walk without having to stop and 
get distracted by a choice of whether to go right of left.
But it didn't feel forced and even no go areas was just a stick covering the path.
Everywhere you looked was a perfect shot and and composed still.
The moss was maintained beautifully and there were gardeners that would sweep the moss to reveal the green color and the velvet texture that made it look like a luxurious carpet.
This was also a garden that inspired many western gardeners particularly French ones.
While I would have like to sit and reflect in one of the temples and tea houses, the time allowed in the garden after the ritual was an hour and a half.
But I hope you enjoy the pictures and am sorry that
 I couldn't better capture the mood.

But I did capture the koi fish wiggling away and 
leaving a zig zag in its wake.

Well that is the exit door and marks the end of the tour.
  Hope you enjoyed it and felt some of the peace and calm that many of us did when exiting.