Torinin’s natsu tsubaki are a symbol that beauty can be fleeting, which sometimes makes it all the more captivating.

Kyoto’s Myoshinji Temple, located in the city’s Ukyo Ward, is a fascinating place. Myoshinji actually isn’t a single temple, but a complex with some 50 sub-temples on its grounds.

Though visitors are welcome to stroll along Myoshinji’s footpaths, all but a few of the complex’s temples are ordinarily closed to the general public, including Torinin Temple, which founded nearly 500 years ago, in 1531. However, Torinin does make an exception and open its gates at a few select times during the year. One of those is right now, so that visitors can see the temple garden’s flowers, which are beautiful in more ways than one, since each flower blossoms for only a single day.

▼ Torinin’s garden last Monday

Technically, each flower blooms for less than a day, since they don’t come close to reaching the 24-hour mark. Called natsu tsubaki, meaning “summer camelias,” if the the white, cup-shaped flowers open before dawn, they can be expected to fall from the branches of their tree by sundown.

The flowers fall largely intact, and since the temple’s natsu tsubaki trees grow above a large patch of mossy ground, their impact is cushioned and the contrast between colors is captivating.

▼ Torinin’s natsu tsubaki in 2023

As with the cherry blossoms, many see the natsu tsubaki, whose scientific name is Stewartia pseudocamellia, as a floral reminder of the transience of life. Torinin is also known as the Sala Tree Temple, sala being another name for the short-lived flowers which are mentioned in the 12th century epic The Tale of the Heike, which includes the passage:

“The sound of the Gion Shoja bells echoes the impermanence of all things; the color of the sala flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.”

▼ Torinin’s flowers in 2022

Though each flower blooms only for one day, the temple has roughly a dozen natsu tsubaki trees, and since not all of their flowers open simultaneously, the total blossoming lasts roughly two weeks. This year, Torinin opened its garden to the public on June 10, and it’ll remain open until June 23. Reservations are not required, though there is an admission fee of 1,600 yen (US$10.35) charged. That includes, however, a cup of matcha green tea and a traditional Japanese confectionary to enjoy as you contemplate the natsu tsubaki’s impermanent beauty, and it’s hard to think of a better reminder of the importance of taking the time to stop and smell the roses/look at the summer camelias when you have the chance.

Temple information
Torinin / 東林院
Locate on the grounds of Myoshinji / 妙心寺
Address: Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Ukyo-ku, Hanazono Myoshinji-cho 1
Myoshinji website

Source: Tokyo Shimbun, NHK News Web
Top image: Wikipedia/運動会プロテインパワー
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