Birthday at Kyoto Gyoen

Writers in Kyoto had its annual writing contest for a piece 300 words or less. Here is my submission! I won just by entering! I won just by writing, because it’s so healing and so much fun!

I am grateful to my Sensei Masasihi Nakamura for these adventures in Japanese philosophy and nature! Part of my new Sensei and Sydney section of my blog!

Birthday at Kyoto Gyoen

by Sydney Solis

Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden

Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. Photo by Sydney Solis

Unexpectedly I went to Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. It venerates San’nyoshin, three female sea deities mainly responsible for birth and culture. It also houses a 600-year-old camphor tree, the oldest in the garden. 

 

While waiting for my sensei, I purified myself with cool water at the chōzuya, prayed at the honden, then quietly pondered hands that tied omikuji fortunes to branches covered in pink sakura buds just beginning to bloom.

 

I wanted a shuin, temple stamp, and when Nakamura-san arrived, he said he knew the priest, so rang the office bell. The priest was away in Tokyo, but a woman priest gave me a prepared shuin, then opened the gate, granting special access within to view the tree.

Dragon carving at Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden

Dragon carving at Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. Photo by Sydney Solis

 

The instant I laid eyes on Goshinboku I felt its presence. A powerful energy distinctly that of “mother.” Dressed with shimenawa rope and white, paper shide marking the kami dwelling within, its massive base and protruding roots gave me a solid sense of grounding. From there the trunk’s low fork thrust three massive branches toward the sky. 

 

Omikuji fortunes tied to branches covered in pink sakura buds at Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. Photo by Sydney Solis

Omikuji fortunes tied to branches covered in pink sakura buds at Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. Photo by Sydney Solis

I approached, bowed, then laid my hands upon the thick bark. Suddenly my heart recalled — I didn’t have a happy mother nor childhood. Not a mother whose arms nurtured and held, but one whose words cut and scarred. Yet this tree sent me motherly love. I felt — in my pelvis, legs, feet, whole body and heart — love and safety as if in the lap of a mother. 

 

I thanked the tree, and when I told the priest what I felt, she mentioned that today was her daughter’s first birthday. “Congratulations!” we said. “It’s also your first birthday — as a mother,” I added.

 

Nakamura-san had brought strawberries for hanami, and we all enjoyed their sweetness. Somehow, I felt it was my birthday too.

Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden

Goshinboku, a divine being, 600-year-old tree, oldest in the garden, at Munakata Shrine within Kyoto Gyoen National Garden

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I swear it looks like the face and body of a woman on the middle branch above my head!

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4 thoughts on “Birthday at Kyoto Gyoen

  1. Beautiful article and photos! Luv this. A psychologist wants told me that it was time for me to become the mother and father to myself that I wished my parents had been. I know I was very lucky compared to you when it came to mothers but I still think it’s good advice. Being loving to oneself and caring for oneself as they word their own child. Luv & hugs,Claire

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Like

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