My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Shrine - buildings & etiquette.

   In this post, the second covering Shinto Shrines, I will explain some of the buildings attached to the complex as-well-as etiquette when visiting such a site. 
   For this exercise I have chosen Taka-jinja Shrine, in the town of Ide-cho (Ide Town). I came-across this complex quite by accident when I was on a reconnaissance ride for my "Everytrail Page". Once I discovered where I was, I realized that I had passed this location several times without noticing there was a Shrine here (there is some great off-road cycle tracks in the hills surrounding the area).
   When I read the history of Taka-jinja, I was struck by the age of the complex and, when I put that up to my own country, Aotearoa, I realize how young a nation it is that I come from - Taka-jinja would have been over 900-years old when Aotearoa was first inhabited.

   You have arrived at the Shrine but, before you proceed, there are some important steps and manners you need to be aware of, most importantly, show respect - behave calmly and respectfully. Taking photos is okay in most shrines, unless there is a sign telling you not to. Also, if you are in mourning or ill, it is best to stay away as these are considered causes of impurity. 
   The first object you will come-across is a pair of  Shishi standing guard outside the gate.
The Shishi on the right, with  it's mouth open,is called "A". 
Where-as the Shishi on the left, with it's mouth closed, is called "Un". 

 If you are visiting an Inari Shrine, like Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto, you will be greeted by a pair of Kitsune (Foxes).
   The next object to confront you will be the Torii, which literally means bird-perch. These have a strong appeal to me as I know I am about to enter a sacred site and also they come in many different sizes.  Most Torii are made of wood and painted vermilion in color but some, like this one at Taka-jinja, are made of concrete.

This Torii I found very-impressive. I took this photo early in the morning just as the sun was about to break-through the trees, which added to the effect I was about to experience as I ascended the steps.  You will notice the rope with paper hanging from it, at the top of the Torii. The rope is known as Shimenawa and the white zig-zag strips of paper are Gohei. This marks the boundary and can also be found around sacred trees and stones.

   The Chozuya , or Purification Trough, is your next stop. It is important to purify yourself before proceeding to the Shrine. To do this, you take one of the ladles and, holding it in your right-hand, pour the water over your left. You then repeat the process, this time holding it in your left-hand. Following this you have to rinse your mouth and spit-out the water in the trough or on the ground. 

 From the Chozuya, you move onto the "Main and Offering Hall". 
Depending on the Shrine's architecture style, the main hall (Honden) and offering hall (Haiden) can either be two separate buildings or combined.
   Now you are ready to approach the offering hall and pray. As you approach  you will notice a wooden box in front of you. Here you toss a coin(s) into the box (a ten-yen coin would suffice) and proceed to attract the Kami's attention. To do this you take-hold of the rope that hangs from a metal gong and shake from right-to-left.Now you are ready to pray. Firstly you bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more, then pray.

  Once you have completed this task, take a wander-around the complex and check-out some of the other buildings.
Here, behind the offering hall, is the Shrine. It's in here that the Shrines artifacts and other important objects are housed and are out of reach to the public. These buildings are very-impressive with their vermilion-colored woodwork and come in many styles, as explained in this article on Shinto Architecture.

    This is the Stage and is used for Bugaku Dance or Noh Theatre. Even some of the out-of-the-way Shrines will have this platform. I use them to rest on and have a bite-to-eat if I am out on my bike or hiking (no offense intended).

Tucked-away in the corner of this Shrine, sometimes outdoors but, in this case, in another building, is where you hang your Ema. These wooden plates are for visitors to write their wishes - good health, success in business, good exam results, love & wealth - and are left at the Shrine in the hope their wishes will come true. Omikuji, or fortune-telling paper slips, are also found at many Shrines and Temples. Randomly drawn, they contain predictions ranging from Daikichi (great good luck) to Daikyo (great bad luck). The strips are then tied to a tree in the hope good fortune will come true or bad fortune can be averted.

   If you want to participate in the experience of attending a Shrine, may I suggest Hatsumode. This is a great occasion and one I look forward to each year. It's an opportunity for me to look-back at the past 12-months and look-ahead. I also take the time to think and pray to those who can't be with us. But, unless you suffer from claustrophobia, I would suggest you stay away and attend at a more quieter time or find a Shrine that is not so busy. In 2005, some 3.8-million people attended Hatsumode at Fushimi-Inari over a three day period.

   Well I hope this post has been enlightening for you. I want to take this opportunity to thank the many websites I used to gather my information - WikipediaJapanese Buddhist Statuary and Because I have used many websites in my research, I am aware there may be some mistakes. This is unavoidable and I apologize.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shrines and Temples.

   Those of you who have read my hiking/biking trip reports - "Everytrail". "Ride with G.P.S". "Facebook,The Great Outdoors - Japan". - will notice a common denominator in most of my reports. That is, I have included a visit to a Shrine and/or Temple. Let me make it clear, it's not the main reason why I venture outdoors. With some 100,000 Shrines spread throughout Japan and just as many Temples, one can't help but stumble-across one of these complexes while out exploring the great-outdoors. They come in many shapes-and-sizes, each one has it's own uniqueness but, at the same time, they are very much the same. Some, like the famous Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, are extremely popular and a visit to Kyoto wouldn't be complete without a visit to this complex (In 2005, during Hatsumode, some 3.5-million devotees visited this complex over a 3-day period). Then there are the not-so-popular Shrines (these are the ones I prefer), the ones that are so isolated very few know they exist. One of the most spectacular of all the Shrines I have visited is the one atop Atago-san (Mt Atago) Atago-jinja - Everytrail & Atago-jinja - Wikipedia. in Kyoto Prefecture. This magnificent complex sits just below the summit of Mt Atago (986m), which raises the question, if this Shrine is hundreds-of-years-old,how was it constructed? When we consider the machinery we have at our disposal today - cranes,diggers,trucks e.t.c. - back then all they had was physical manpower - sweat & muscle.
 One of my favorite Shrines is this one in the village of Kamocho Takasari. Moriyawatamiya-jinja Shrine was set in amongst rocks just a few meters off a country lane.
After passing-through the vermilion colored Torii, and ascending the hundred or so steps, you reach the Shrine. On the two occasions I have been here, I have stayed about 1-hour and used the time to have a bite-to-eat, check my map and just take-in the surroundings.

   This brings me to the part of this post where I explain to you what a Shrine is. Well I'm not, the people at  Wikipedia are (when you have read this, you will understand why). In Japan, a Shrine is where devotees of the Shinto Religion come to pray. But Shrines are not just unique to Japan, as you will see in the following link

    Shinto and Buddhism are the main Religions practiced in Japan, with a sprinkling of Christianity. Which brings me to a question I would dearly-love  someone to help me find an answer for. In Japan, as I have just explained, a Shrine is home to devotees of Shinto and a Temple is home to devotees of Buddhism. But I have also been told that a Shrine is where one goes to pray to God, and a Temple where one prays to their ancestors, regardless, I presume, of denomination. True - or- false? Now (the plot thickens), if that is the case, what about this situation. On a recent outing to Yamashirocho (Yamashiro Town) I came-across a Temple nestled-amongst the hills and trees overlooking Kizugawashi (Kizugawa City). Gyokudai-ji Temple is a Zen Buddhist Temple but, as you will see in these photos, there is a Shrine on the complex.
On the left is the Torii and, further inside, is the Shrine.

   Well, I think I have about exhausted your time with this topic. In the coming weeks I will post articles covering etiquette, when visiting a Shrine, and the many buildings that make-up the complex.
   Before I sign-off, I will include 2-photos of Isa Grand Shrine, in Mie Prefecture. This makes interesting reading.

   So, until next time, it's been my pleasure to share this with you and I look forward to any comments, suggestions and additions you may have.

                                                    Yours e.t.c.


Monday, October 3, 2011

An Introduction.

   "This Piece of Rock ......or what is known as Planet Earth"? What sort of name is that for a blog?  

   These must be some of the many questions you are asking yourself. Or me. It is a bit unusual, isn't it? But, there again, once you have finished reading this, my first post, you should come to understand why I named it such.                                                                                                                                             

   You see I don't want this blog to be only about me, and what I am doing or how I feel about a topic - although in saying that,  from time-to-time I will share with you snippets of what I am doing - I want it to be about a whole raft of topics. In some ways I will use this to rant-and-rave about whatever.

   Now, to bring you a little bit closer to the name, and why I chose it. You see, I regard myself as a Pacifist.  But my views aren't just related to the opposition to violence and wars. My feelings cover a much larger area. I am opposed to the things that we, the Human Race, do that create disharmony on this planet. Whether it be to our fellow humans, the members of the animal kingdom, the environment, the planet +++++. 

   I'm not necessarily into criticizing those that commit ill-doings, but recognizing and praising those that protect and preserve what we have here. Take for instance the following - "Save the Kiwi Foundation". and 1,000th Kiwi Hatched. With this species of Kiwi close to extinction this is great news,and those responsible should have their efforts recognized.
   I uploaded from a post on "Facebook". Thanks "Florida Biking" for sharing this.It sums-up how I feel.

   I will cover issues like mans-inhumanity-to-man, as was the case in the recent execution of  - Troy Davis (although the issue here is execution as a form of punishment/deterrent).

   When we look at environment issues we tend to look at the big issues that are affecting us. Like pollution, Global Warming, Weapons-of-mass destruction, deforestation +++. I plan to look at the smaller issues that don't seem to get much publicity, like litter and those that go to great lengths to dispose of it illegally, without being caught - I'm not just talking about the fast-food wrappers that are left lying in the gutter.

   I think by now you are getting the gist of what my blog will be about. I hope you enjoy reading my posts and please feel free to comment and, if you are a blogger, please connect. I shall now go away and think about my next post.

                                Thank-you very much and have a good day,