Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Monday, May 2, 2011

COMING to Japan from the United States, it sometimes seems as if the people of the former have a more relaxed approach to their many traditions than do the people of the latter about their fewer traditions. That’s to the extent that people in either country take an active interest in tradition at all.

Here’s another example I discovered recently. Nakashima Biniiru Kako in Hitachi, Ibaraki, manufactures torii for Shinto shrines using polyvinyl chloride pipe. That’s a good idea when you think about it—the material is cheap, durable, light, easy to replace, impervious to water or ultraviolet rays, and if it’s red, most people won’t notice the difference anyway.

Company President Nakashima Masayoshi came up with the idea to use PVC pipe as a replacement for the usual stone, steel, or wood about 17 years ago. (There are also a few made of porcelain, including one at a shrine in the ceramics center of Arita.) Mr. Nakashima says he receives orders for about 20 in a good month, so there might be more of them around than anyone realizes. In fact, he does well enough to have a website for them, which you can see here. (Japanese only, of course) His company has another clever product, by the way: folding, portable storage containers for garbage. Keeping the magpies away until the garbage trucks show up can be a problem.

No one has come up with a satisfactory theory on the origin of torii, which mark the entrances to the shrine’s sacred space, and have become the symbol of shrines themselves. A few of the oldest ones have doors, including those at secondary shrines at Ise, so they probably were real gates at one time. Now the gates are all doorless, which means anyone can come and go as they please. “Straight is the gate and narrow is the path” isn’t an idea that would have originated in Shinto, but then the Japanese have a relaxed approach to religion, too. Try this torii and shrine combo in Okayama City for another example.

None of this should be surprising. After all, no one is able to agree whether Shinto is a “religion” to begin with.

Here’s something that is a bit of a surprise, however: Eighteen-year-old Terakubo Erena holding her own with some very heavy hitters.

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4 Responses to “Eco-torii”

  1. toadold said

    “The Japanese aren’t any good at Jazz, they can’t handle the improvisation.”
    “Oh, who are your favorite Jazz musicians.”
    “I don’t listen to that stuff. Strictly Rock for me man.”
    “Then like how do you tell the difference from a Japanese with good chops and an American who is just blowing his nose?”
    I swear, an honest to God real conservation.

  2. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    To some, Japanese are not good at everything. They miss many things. After all, life is what they miss….

    I knew her name but this video is the first and I was surprised at her tone. She really blows.

  3. toadold said

    When I retired I became something of an anime Otaku. My plans to read all those “good” books evaporated and I’ve pretty much gone for the bubble gum for the mind in books and entertainment. When I first started watching the anime I noticed that I was hearing music that I had never heard before. It would be jazz, rock, classical, or Japanese traditional sounding but not from the Western cannon. There where pieces that were obviously fusion to me. I discovered that there was a rabid fan base that collected not the anime but the music for the anime. An example would the the opening song for “Elfen Lied” called “Lilian.” It was sung in Latin and had the sound of a hauntingly beautiful Renaissance music piece to me. It was also covered as an all instrumental piece by a symphony orchestra. Anyway it was all totally original for what they would sneer at in the West as a cartoon, It became a pretty popular torrent download even by people who hated the anime.
    T: I put another You Tube up for the anime background music, but I forget which post it’s on. Maybe anime in the search engine on the left sidebar will turn it up.

    – A.

  4. toadold said

    Oh what the heck, here it is.

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