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.

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